Smoked Trout, Homemade Bagels

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I threw a little brunch for friends, with homemade bagels, salmon and trout I smoked over alder wood, gravlax cured by H, dry farmed early girl tomatoes (so good…), salted cucumbers, and other accoutrements.

For the bagels, I mostly used the tried and true recipe, though I tried retarding the dough (letting it rise slowly in a cold place overnight) in both a typical 40°F fridge and a special 55°F fridge I had set up with a temperature controller for fermenting experiments. The 40° dough rose less, but then swelled up when baked (see left bagels below– perhaps I didn’t boil them long enough this time?) They still tasted good, like bagels– but the dough retarded at 55° had an especially nice crackling crust around a chewy bagel. I’ll keep playing around with rising times and temperatures…

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For the trout and salmon I followed a four day “hot smoke” process based on the Russell Smallwood / Naked Whiz recipe. This produces savory, rich, cooked salmon and trout with a bit of a chewy crust– not a smoked cold/raw salmon like lox.

Wednesday evening I made a plain salt brine (I wanted to start with the basics this time before getting into spices, herbs, or sugar) and immersed a thick 2lb block of salmon and 2lbs of cleaned trout fillets (both skin-on) in it under weights overnight.

Thursday morning before work I rinsed the brine off both and set them out uncovered in a fridge to air dry for 36 hours, in the hope of developing more of a skin/pellicle when smoked.

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Friday night I fired up the kamado-style ceramic grill/smoker with lump charcoal and a few chunks of alder wood and stabilized it at the low temperature of 180°F (this took some effort and required sealing every spare crack of inlet space with foil to control the airflow). After one false start when I closed down the vents so much that I snuffed the fire, I got a steady slow burn going and popped in the salmon and trout. I let them smoke until 2AM (about 6 hours), which led to a heavily cured toothy smoked trout with a great skin, and a moderately cured salmon that was fully cooked but still moist in the middle (the salmon was much thicker to start– but I didn’t want to be getting up all night to check on it– maybe next time I’ll try a 12-hour smoke).

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I chilled the fish overnight, and Saturday morning they were ready to go for brunch. Mmm.

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There were plenty of smoked fish leftovers (though not as many as I expected making 5 lbs of fish for 9 people), and mixing it in to scrambled eggs with feta is my favorite leftover use so far…

I think the trout turned out amazingly good and have been snacking on it for days– I wouldn’t change anything. The salmon was also very good, but next time I want to try some more herbs and spices in the brine and perhaps a little sugar– and try smoking a part of it even longer to see if I can get a bit more of a dry “salmon jerky” crust outside the moist interior.

Pesto from the garden, ham and melon, caprese

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Our first basil harvest put to good use on a summer evening.

Quick Breakfast Tacos

26 Mar

Fried and braised a chorizo sausage to crumble, then scrambled some eggs w/ milk in the drippings. With homemade tortillas (Maseca, salt, water), quick-pickled carrots (cut thin, 20 minutes in vinegar) as a nice counterpoint to the fat, cheddar, and avocado.

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Homebrew #30! with Mugwort

19 Mar

It’s hard to believe I’ve brewed 30 beers (by the time I write this, 32) over the past few years. For this one I continued down the esoteric “sacred and healing herbal beers” route I’d started with the yarrow beer and brewed a gallon of beer with some wild mugwort foraged from the Oakland hills filling the role of the bitter, aromatic, antibacterial(?) herb instead of hops.

It’s related to wormwood (used in absinthe) and has some hints of similarity in taste– and is almost unbearably bitter on its own.

The “ancient beer” recipe I read was basically sugar and mugwort fermented, which didn’t sound pleasant– fermenting sugar is an easy way to get a hot, harsh alcohol. So instead I brewed a basic all-grain beer recipe I’d use for a pale ale (pale malt, a little wheat, a little rye, and a neutral dry ale yeast), mashed at the low end of the temperature range (149F) to hopefully give a dry beer, but replacing the bittering, flavor, and aromatic hop additions with mugwort. I just made one gallon since it’s both simpler to do stovetop and I expected the outcome might be… challenging, and bottled mostly in the 187mL champagne split bottles I’d picked up a few months ago, making it easier to just crack open a half-beer to taste it (in addition, the UV-driven rapid skunking of regular beers in clear bottles shouldn’t be a concern as that’s a reaction with the hops).

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Adding mugwort to the boil:

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Fermenting in a friend’s basement:

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And, a month later, the result, bottled– as usual having some fun with the labels: sunprint paper to expose photograms of some mugwort leaves, filled in with a silver paint pen loosely inspired by 60s psychadelic band posters.

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Oh, and the beer? It had a slightly-greenish yellow tint, with a tart slightly lemony and herbal smell– and a distinctive but intensely basically-undrinkable bitter punch in the face. I enjoyed sipping a bit of it like an apertif/digestif or fernet, but I have an unusual love of and tolerance for bitterness. It actually worked well splashed into soda water like a bitters rather than consumed straight, so I’ll save most of them as a cocktail mixer– and if I made it again I’d take a much lighter hand on the mugwort or combine it with other herbs or hops.

Buenos Aires lunch “You Eat What I Cook”: Don Carlos

12 Mar

Looking back on our Buenos Aires trip a year ago (a few days after La Huella), the most memorable lunch was at Don Carlos.

After catching a cab across the city, we walked in to what felt like a casual family neighborhood cafe, empty except for two tables of older gentlemen chatting over food.

The grey-haired owner strode over to our table and brusquely said in English “You Eat What I Cook?”

It was half question, half order. We nodded, and without ordering over the next hour or so he and family members brought out dish after dish– excellent meatballs, a caprese-like salad, shrimp, steaks, pork chops, empanadas, bread, and for dessert dishes by his wife, including a flan that made me a believer.

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It was a hearty, cheerful lunch to sit and talk with friends over while passing plates around. And at the end of the meal he insisted on showing us the guest book of past visitors (including Francis Ford Coppola) and we took a photo with Don Carlito himself. Thank you for a great afternoon!

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(more) Citrus Shrubs

5 Mar

Another winter, another bounty of local California citrus to preserve. I’ve made some marmalade, but shrubs (juice/oils from fruit+vinegar+sugar, shelf-stable) are my preferred form. Makrut lime, yuzu-chipotle-anise, and bergamot shrubs, all made with mostly rice vinegar to leave the citrus as the focus:

It was also a good excuse to strain, filter, and rebottle other shrubs from the past year with sediment that had settled out.

Mensho Ramen, San Francisco

27 Feb

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Excellent ramen– Tori Paitan– savory-umami rich broth from chicken bones with some fermented flavors, with pork and duck chashu and good toothy noodles. The Suntory Premium Malts on tap was good company. Worth waiting in line an hour.

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