Ham Hocks

So I did the Green Beans with Ham Hock and New Potatoes recipe from Food Network last night. This is what fresh green beans are for. The picture was taken after I’d devoured a bunch of it already.

The recipe is really perfect. You simmer two ham hocks for 45 minutes, which gets a bunch of yummy out of those knuckles. Then you throw in the beans with some sugar, and I think the sugar does more than add a bit of sweetness; I think it helps to break down that tough cellulose. I only had a pound of beans, so I used 1/4 cup of sugar. After they simmer a while, in go the potatoes and salt. The result is beans that are nicely seasoned, easy to gobble, and that still offer that somewhat resistant mouthfeel. The potatoes give up some starch to the beans at just the right time, I think.

Another observation: I have only worked with ham hocks once before, and I did not bother at the time to go hunting for meat. I did with these, and I was surprised how much good pork one can find from this hard-working part. To throw on some color, I threw these hocks into my air fryer for five minutes. Once I removed the fatty layer, but I was able to find maybe a quarter pound of really nice meat. Next time, though, I’ll save this step for later because it is a good bit of work, and the potatoes and beans do not need the meat. Why add another step while you have a delicious steaming bowl of beans and taters to serve? Save the carving for later; the meat will serve another purpose. I’m thinking spaghetti sauce or tacos.


Tonight’s Chicken and Rice

This was done in my three-quart Instant Pot. It turned out real nice. Here’s how I did that tonight. This is more for me to keep track of what I did, but if it gives you ideas for preparing a meal, mazel tov.

I had two pounds of chicken breast. I cubed them. I browned them in a hot cast iron skillet, pouring a bit of kosher salt on each batch. This is real browning, by the way, not throwing all two pounds of meat in the pan and hoping some of it will turn GBD. It won’t. Treat each cube like a little steak you’re trying to get rare in the middle.

I set the meat aside and set the cast iron skillet off to cool a bit. Into my three-quart Instant Pot I put one cup of chicken broth (reduced sodium) and 1/3 cup of water. I stirred in 1 and 1/3 cup of long grain white rice. I threw in the browned chicken. I stirred it up a little.

Then I used the rest of the can of the broth to deglaze the cast iron skillet. I took this yummy soup and set it aside, and then I put my cast iron skillet in a warm oven to dry.

I got out a saucepan and made a roux. A roux is when you cook a tablespoon of all-purpose flour in a tablespoon of butter until the flour seems a bit cooked and the mixture is a nice yellow. Then I let the saucepan cool for a bit, then threw in the yummy soup and went to work with a whisk. But before I did that, I turned on the Instant Pot to pressure, five minutes.

Then I made a gravy by whisking the stuff in the saucepan up.

When the Instant Pot counted down to 0, I released the pressure immediately. I opened the cooker and stirred the contents. I stirred in a cup of frozen peas. I stirred in the gravy. I also threw in about 1/4 cup of half and half I happened to have so that the half and half wouldn’t go bad and would actually get used.

It’s not a dump and go recipe, though it could be if you forgo the steps of browning the meat first and sopping up that nice fond in the pan to make a yummy gravy. But why in the wide wide world of sports would you do that?

Chicken and rice can be prepared in many different ways. Aside from my oven method, this here is my favorite. I might take the IP time down by a minute next time as I am always nervous about overcooking chicken breast, especially when they’re cubed, though they came out okay. Also, I have this groovy jerk seasoning I got at Niblacks that I’m fond of, but I try not to overuse it.

My IP recipe book grows. Slowly, but working on it.

(I read the recipe at I Don’t Have Time For That before I did this.)

Egg to Go

I don’t need big breakfasts, but I need breakfast, and I generally need to break fast about an hour or so into my shift. I don’t wake up famished. My appetite generally takes some time to kick in. Plus, that first hour? That’s for coffee.

So I’ve been playing with ways to take single-egg dishes to the job. The latest iteration:

First you get one of these

Then you poach an egg, let it cool a bit, and put it in there.

Then you get one of these

and cut it in half and throw it in there.

LITTLE TINY BREAKFAST

Try The Reuben

The bar stool upon which I sat today at lunch was crooked, and it wobbled. Either that or I kept encountering a divot in the floor. I am not certain which was the case. Regardless, my seat had a wobble.

This is not the kind of thing one experiences at the newest latest pub. I did not have a wobbly bar stool when I had lunch at Bar Louie Saturday because I took my car in because the front tires were regularly losing up to 10PSI, and when the mechanics perched her up on the rack, they discovered my brakes were nearly gone and offered to replace them, so I ended up having a meal at Bar Louie next-door, and I can assure you that my bar stool did not wobble there.

No, that wobbly bar stool is a well-earned scar at a joint called J.B. Quimby’s Public House, which is an old-shitters’ joint and one of the finest pubs in western New York and certainly in all the land. Quimby’s has dings and pock marks, and it has earned them and wears them with swagger. And today I had the pleasure of lunch there with my Dad and my brother, and it was really good. I had the reuben melt, and it was delicious. Dad had the Cuban with these cheesy potatoes that must be experienced because they were delicious. My brother had a quesadilla.

During this excursion, we took in a football game on the television. We watched the Buffalo Bills play the New Orleans Saints right here in Buffalo.

The team from the Big Easy ended up besting the Bills 47-10. As quoted in the Democrat and Chronicle today, linebacker Preston Brown said “We weren’t good.”

Having discussed my really nice Sunday today, I share this. For reasons. From the book Illusions, by Richard Bach:

Once there lived a village of creatures along the bottom of a great crystal river.

The current of the river swept silently over them all—young and old, rich and poor, good and evil, the current going its own way, knowing only its own crystal self.

Each creature in its own manner clung tightly to the twigs and rocks of the river bottom, for clinging was their way of life, and resisting the current what each had learned from birth.

But one creature said at last, “I am tired of clinging. Though I cannot see it with my eyes, I trust that the current knows where it is going. I shall let go, and let it take me where it will. Clinging, I shall die of boredom.”

The other creatures laughed and said, “Fool! Let go, and that current you worship will throw you tumbled and smashed across the rocks, and you will die quicker than boredom!”

But the one heeded them not, and taking a breath did let go, and at once was tumbled and smashed by the current across the rocks.

Yet in time, as the creature refused to cling again, the current lifted him free from the bottom, and he was bruised and hurt no more.

And the creatures downstream, to whom he was a stranger, cried, “See a miracle! A creature like ourselves, yet he flies! See the Messiah, come to save us all!”

And the one carried in the current said, “I am no more Messiah than you. The river delights to lift us free, if only we dare let go. Our true work is this voyage, this adventure.”

But they cried the more, “Savior!” all the while clinging to the rocks, and when they looked again he was gone, and they were left alone making legends of a Savior.

A Secret Magic Trick, re: Sous Vide Circulator

So I shall start by indicating first how lovely it is to be wrong regarding the fate of my Democrats in elections on yesterday. We did well. It gives me new heart. Perhaps Democrats are as energized as they think they are. That would be nice.

Locally, here in Henrietta, N.Y., the vote went pretty well. We fired the town supervisor, a Republican, who had been accused of making controversial comments; that is all I need to say about that. We fired the Republican sheriff for some reason. I voted for the incumbent, a Republican. Yes, I voted for a Republican. Get over it. Mainly because I do not recall any major controversy or horror coming out of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and I do not think of it as a political office. But congratulations to Todd Baxter. There’s a new sheriff in town. Rochester re-elected Lovely Warren as mayor. I didn’t see that one coming. Just kidding.

So in this new installment of the occasional advice column known as “Hints from Abelard,” I want to give another perspective of the art of cooking sous vide. This is when you cook food low and slow in a strictly controlled temperature water bath with slow circulation to promote convection. I some time ago purchased an Anova soux vides circulator and was convinced for a week or so that it was the next great hope of cooking techniques.

I imagined that cooking sous vide would be a boon for a bachelor; that one could simply season some meat, vacuum seal it, freeze it, then drop it into the bath upon arriving home, allowing it to cook for an hour or several, then sitting down to gnaw on a perfectly cooked steak or salmon or chicken thigh.

The problem with this notion is that, in fact, cooking sous vide requires a great deal mise en place. First one must season the food, then one must vacuum seal the food. Then, one must draw the water and assemble the pot with the circulator. Then, one must immerse the food and may need to insulate the pot with some foil and a towel to avoid a loss of thermal energy. Then, when the food is cooked, one must open the pouch, allow the food to rest, and then throw it in a scalding pan or zap it with a torch to get that nice maillard action going on.

The fact, my friends, is that cooking sous vide is only sensible if you are preparing a feast for more then two human beings.

Because if you’re just preparing a single steak, or maybe two, you can easily prepare it to perfection if you are willing to use a cast iron skillet and to open a lot of windows and turn on a lot of fans. 500-degree oven. Cast iron skillet. Meat. Kosher salt and Rochester Pepper (Yes, Dad, Rochester Pepper is quite a dandy spicy yummy thing, thank you) (or at least fresh-ground pepper). Two minutes a side. That is a perfect steak. Please watch episode one of season one of Good Eats because it is the best one. Watch it once per year at least. This should be mandatory for every American person. Because I think it’s fair to say that John Wayne ate steak.

Now if you’re cooking for more than two, say you have a hungry crowd of eight, sous vide makes sense. Because if you’re just pan-frying that many steaks? You’re going to mess at least one of them up on a pan. Probably overcook it or burn it severely. That’s just too much meat to babysit on a scorching pan. With sous vide, you cook all of those steaks to even and consistent quality. You sear it on a scorching pan for like 45 seconds. You rest the meat and carve. And you serve.

But for a single guy bachelor type who just wants to serve himself up a nice steak or a pork chop? Honestly, I can get better results with the scorching hot cast iron skillet.

Still. The sous vide circulator does one thing better than anything else, whether you are cooking for one or a million. The sous vide circulator thaws frozen meat. Quickly. Safely. And more naturally and better than any tool you can ever apply to the job. Just put cold water from your faucet into the pan and align and anchor your circulator. Set it to 70 degrees and start it spinning. And throw in your frozen meat in its original wrapping.

You will have thawed meat in 15-20 minutes, without the danger of prematurely cooking it (like, say, thawing it in the microwave), without the danger of it going into the red zone because you left it out too long, and without running gallons of water over it in the sink because it actually circulates the water. This is the best reason to buy a sous vide circulator, period: It is the superior method for thawing frozen food. It will do it safely and faster than any other method.

You can also mess around with you know, using it to cook stuff. But, I’m telling you. This thing is most useful as a frozen food magic food thawer thingie, and that is reason enough for a person to go buy one all on its own.

That is today’s Hint from Abelard.

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So today I heard an old guy have to explain to a young guy that Get Smart was a TV show before it was a movie. I would have felt bad for the older guy except that he began this thread of conversation by taking off his shoe and holding it up to his face and saying “You remember the TV show? Get Smart? Remember?” The dude was standing at his work place holding his own shoe to his face like it was a telephone. I was just glad there are no dogs near where he lives.

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