Italian Bread

Gave up on the previous recipe. Went back to the Sunset Italian Cookbook adobe oven bread, that Pamela used to make and Mark Richards used to make at Finagle’s Freehold (my first house in Minneapolis). Have yet to have results anywhere near as good as I remember, but getting better. One problem was clearly old yeast (the old jar was a year out of date, and the new jar performed better; I assume letting it reproduce with sugar for a while before adding the flour would have made up the difference, though).

And have tried a few experiments, which I haven’t been that fond of.

So, here’s the current version. This is actually 1/2 the quantity of the original, sized for our mixer (I’m going to try increasing this by 1.5x to make three loaves, though). Instructions are detailed for my kitchen; you’ll have to adapt it to your environment, same as me.

Ingredients:

  • 2t active dry yeast (or 1 packet)
  • 2 t sugar
  • 2 c water at 110°
  • 5 c unbleached white flour
  • 1/2 T salt

Procedure:

Dissolve yeast and sugar in water.

In mixer (with dough hook) add salt and flour. Do not forget to add the salt! I find I have to intervene manually a lot to get it really mixed, including taking the dry scraps at the bottom of the bowl and burying them in the middle of the dough ball. (I’m starting to consider making a minor increase in salt, perhaps to 2t.)

Knead a minute or two in mixer, possibly adding up to 2c flour. (My experience has not yet involved adding more than ½c flour; perhaps in more humid weather?)

Form ball and put in oiled bowl. Cover with cling wrap and place in lower oven on “proof” (100° I believe; which is hotter than most recipes call for for yeast to rise; I’m considering trying a lower temp, but this one is very easy to attain with my equipment) for 75 minutes (until doubled).

Punch down, knead a bit (last chance to correct consistency), divide into two long loaves.  (Or you can make smaller rolls, etc.)

Shake yellow cornmeal onto ungreased baking sheet. Place loaves on sheet.  Cover with floured cloth. Place in oven on “proof” again to rise for 30-40 minutes. (Original recipe had cloth under as well as over, but I find handling the loaves that much is risky, so I’ve dropped the bottom cloth.) (I’ve tried a dual u-shaped pan which is supposed to make better crust, but it’s a very minor difference, and that pan doesn’t fit the upper oven either.)

Preheat oven to 350º. (I use the top little oven; but you could just take the sheet out of the oven and preheat it, wouldn’t hurt anything.) (I tried 400º, more in line with recipes in The Breads of France, but found it got too close to burning the bottom.)

Remove covering cloth. Slash the tops of the loaves with a sharp knife to release steam. Place in oven.

After 10 minutes, spray loaves with water.

After another 10 minutes, spray loaves with water again.

Bake for 40-60 minutes, until done.  (Total baking time is thus 60-80 minutes.)

Let cool at least 15 minutes before slicing (although, with a really good bread knife, you can get away with earlier).

Pork Tinga Experiment

That is, a spicy pork filling for things like tacos.

Also, the second experiment in the little crockpot.

Ingredients:

  • Small pork roast, 1.7 lbs with bone in my case, trimmed of excess fat and divided into natural pieces
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin seed
  • 1 roma tomato, minced
  • 1 ancho chile, cut up
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp powdered guajilo chile
  • ½ tsp chile arbol
  • ½ tsp cayenne (ran out of chile arbol)

Preparation:

Put the onion, tomato, and seasonings into a small crockpot.  Put the meat on top.

Add beef broth slowly (it takes a while to work its way down through the layers) until nearly covered (remember, crockpot should be less than ¾ full).

Cover and cook on high for 5 hours.

Take out the bone, picking off and returning any edible bits.  Mash the remaining meat with a potato masher (it should be cooked enough for this to work).

Notes:

I served this in soft corn tortillas.  Adding crystal hot sauce made it considerably better, it was not sufficiently seasoned initially. There’s too much liquid to use directly, dish it up with a slotted spoon or have very soupy tacos.

We got 4 servings out of this, each of which filled three tacos decently. Adding some garnishes, chopped onion and sour cream for example, would probably help.

The original recipe called for tomato sauce rather than actual tomato, and had no cumin in it (shock, horror!). And had numerous other differences (and was for a much bigger batch).

I’d want to increase the chiles, the cumin, and the herbs.  And add something, beer or wine or vinegar, to move the flavor that direction a bit.

 

Mexican Spicy Pork

The pork variant of the taco filling recipe from a bit ago.

Ingredients:

  • 3T or so olive oil
  • 4 yellow onions, minced
  • 10 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1.5 pounds pork (maybe somewhat less after boning and trimming)
  • 1t fresh-ground black pepper
  • 3T flour
  • 1T paprika
  • 2T cumin seeds (or so)
  • 1T ground ancho pepper
  • 1T ground guajillo pepper
  • 1/2cup accidental zinfandel vinegar (well, past-drinking zinfandel)
  • 3T oregano
  • 2 cups water
  • small corn tortillas
  • 1tsp salt
  • 3T olive oil

Directions:

Cut pork into small cubes (say 3/4″).  Mix the pepper and flour, and dredge the pork in this.

Heat 3T oil in a good skillet, and brown the pork in it.

Meanwhile, heat 3T oil in a pot big enough for the whole mess, and sauté the onions, garlic, and seasonings in this.

Add the pork when it’s done, and the wine, and about half the water (to cover).  Bring to a boil, and turn down to simmer.

Cook about an hour, adjusting water as seems fitting.

Notes

Flavor is still a little dark, and texture is a little pasty.  Maybe leave out the flour entirely?  Or at least use less, and add it as a thickener later?

This one didn’t have any salsa; didn’t seem to help or hurt.

Maybe some lime juice?

Water level and texture was better this time. Note that I used proportionally less water, not just absolutely less.

 

Mexican Spicy Chicken

Taco filling; no doubt also useful as a burrito filling or even added to a quesadilla, but not tested beyond tacos yet.  This is an attempt to report what I actually did, rather than the recipe I started from :-).  See notes at the end for thoughts towards the future.

Ingredients:

  • 2T olive oil
  • 4 yellow onions, minced
  • 10 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 pounds chicken in half inch cubes (I mixed breast and thigh)
  • 2T old hot Hungarian paprika (too much)
  • 1t fresh black pepper
  • 1T generic paprika
  • 2T cumin seeds
  • 1 dried  Ancho chile snipped into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1/2 cup Mrs. Renfrew’s medium salsa
  • 1/2 cup overage Zinfandel
  • 4T oregano
  • Couple of good pinches of salt
  • 4 cups chicken stock (bouillon)
  • 2T white flour mixed in 4T water
  • 3T olive oil
  • small corn tortillas

Directions:

Sauté garlic and onions in 2T olive oil until lightly browned.

Cook chicken cubes in 3T olive oil.  When half done add all the dry seasonings.  Keep well stirred.

Bring stock to a boil.  Add cooked onions and garlic, and cooked chicken and spices.  Cook for half an hour at least.

At around the last 5 minutes, stir in the flour and water to thicken.

Heat pairs of tortillas on a lightly oiled grill until they are soft and perhaps starting to brown in spots.  Fill each pair of tortillas with a big spoon of chicken filling.

Notes

Kind of aiming towards the kind of spicy chicken filling you get at places like Pinedas Tacos.  That includes cubed rather than shredded chicken.

This was, if anything, a little too spicy. I’d skip the Hungarian paprika next time, and substitute a dark-flavored Mexican pepper, ground.  Also, more cumin.  And possibly still more salt (I started out conservative since I used stock, which tends to be very salty).

Also a bit too liquid.  I’d like to get it down to a less liquid consistency without the thickening.  Maybe less water, more cooking.  The original recipe dredged the chicken in flour to start, and probably got some thickening out of that.

Basically fairly close to goal, though.  I’d work towards using some standard tomato product plus more seasoning rather than the salsa, to make it more reproducible and less dependent on processed ingredients.

Might be worth trying the same basic recipe with pork cubes.

Found the Lentil Cassoulet Recipe

That is, I found a computer file with an older version, that contained the details I remembered before but didn’t recreate.

This recipe comes originally from a Julia Child TV show. My mother developed it based on one viewing of the show, and passed it on to me. If anybody finds the original of this, you will probably have a marvelous example of the “folk process” at work.

Serves 4 or more.

Method:

1 C lentils
3 C water
Salt
4 Carrots Slice fairly thin
3 stalks Celery Slice fairly thin
3 Onions Chop coarsely
4 Leeks Slice fairly thin
Oil
2 T flour
1/2 C red wine
1/2 LB sausage Bratwurst or better (hot Italian, maybe)
Shallots Chopped fine
Thyme
Breadcrumbs

Ingredients: Boil lentils, covered in the water for 25 minutes; salt to
taste. Drain, reserving the liquid. Spread lentils into buttered 8×13 baking dish.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Saute chopped carrots, celery, onions, and leeks in oil. When cooked, add flour, wine, and enough lentil liquid to cover (there often isn’t enough, add some extra water if necessary). Cook until thickened, then pour over lentils in baking dish.

Place sausage on top. Sprinkle with chopped shallots, thyme, and breadcrumbs.

Bake in 375 degree oven for 40 minutes.