Sunday, March 2, 2014

Mango Bloodbath

It's winter, its cold, there has been record snowfall. It was with fond memories of summer and mango-salsa tacos in my head that I happened to notice mangoes were on sale at the supermarket. It doesn't matter how much they were. When I see a sale sign on something at the supermarket I assume its a good deal, even it it is not. Well played, supermarket. So standing there at the display I googled "how to buy a mango" to make sure I wasn't getting any duds, and just like that, I was in the mangoes.

Three mangoes, to be precise. When I got them home I was informed they needed to ripen a bit more. I then let them go maybe a day longer than they needed to. This may have made them a tad softer than they should have been when I went to cut them. I have never cut up a mango but I know that the pit (or stone) is not like other fruits, it is flat and wide. You must cut to either side. To see what I mean you can watch the video I watched:

I still did not realize just how big the stone is compared to the whole fruit. Its not just flat and wide but also tall. after cutting all the flesh away from each of my three mangoes, I put the cores (the stones still covered with some flesh that had escaped the knife) to the side. At the end of the process I stood over the sink scraping the fresh off the stones with my teeth like a lion at a gazelle carcass. And it was good.

I plucked some cilantro off its stems. I plucked A LOT of cilantro, in fact. Looking at it I thought, we always get this bushel of cilantro, use some and the rest ends up wilting and getting tossed. Might as well pluck a whole bunch. This was the most time consuming part of the process. The rinsed and plucked cilantro was placed in a cereal bowl where it was finely chopped up with scissors, much faster than a knife and cutting board.

These mangoes were juicy! I used the technique from the video above where you peel them before you cut them, cut the flesh off in thin slices and then slice into matchsticks for fine dicing. It didn't go according to plan. It was fine up until the matchstick part, when they started slipping and sliding all over the place. I think it was because they were on the softer side. I resorted to my usual machete-in-the-jungle style of cutting. The counter and I were covered from one end to the other with sticky yellow mango juice and finely chopped cilantro. It looked like a mango murder scene. As a side note, am I alone in thinking that slices of mango feel a lot like raw chicken in the hand?

All the while I had been sampling the mango and wondering why mango salsa I have had never tastes quite this good. It turns out you can't improve on nature. The small amount of red onion and nearly lethal dose of cilantro (I love cilantro) I added overpowered most of the sweetness I had tasted from the bare fruit. Now I know, the mango by itself is almost the best thing.

I added the juice of two limes (I love limes) as well to my out-of-season summer-in-winter concoction. I tried it on a spoon first. Then on a soft tortilla. I put some crumbled up Sun Chips on top for some crunchy texture (the tacos in my summer-memory had crunchy onion straws).  And I also tried it right on top of Sun Chips. Pretty good stuff. Next time, less onion, less cilantro. And we'll do it when it is actually mango season.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

How to make perfect hard boiled eggs

Behold, Excalibur!

 You will need: a stove, oven mitts, a pot with a lid, a spoon or egg transferring device, a timer that shows minutes, a mixing bowl, ice cubes, water and large eggs.

* Note, these instructions for perfect hard-boiled eggs work for me and my little steel pot on my gas stove. Your milage my vary. 

The key to making perfect hard-boiled eggs is to make them over and over, figuring out how your pot and stove cook eggs. I find that brand matters, at least to me. I find Egglands Best taste better than the supermarket brand. They don't pay me to say that but if they sent some eggs my way I wouldn't complain.


 "Geology is the study of pressure and time." So saith Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption. Perfect hard boiled eggs are a study in egg age and time. That is to say, eggs that were just delivered to the supermarket might not be the best. Neither are eggs that have been sitting in the refrigerator for a month. Good eggs are somewhere in-between. The time factor refers to boiling time, sitting time, and cool down time.

A word on size: I don't use jumbo or extra-large eggs. Large is the perfect size. Even in terms of shape, an egg that is closer to spherical is likely to turn out better than one that is longer and.or pointier.

Brown eggs? White eggs? It doesn't matter. Eggs is eggs. You can quote me on that. Wait, don't quote me on that, people will realize I have terrible grammar.

I put my eggs in my little steel pot and put in enough water so that they are submerged. If they float, that is okay. Floaters might be a little older and more air has permeated the egg's air cell. If your eggs are floating halfway out of the water, take a photo of that, send it to me and then throw your eggs in the garbage before the FDA finds out.

Don't crowd the pot too much. If its getting crowded, use a bigger pot, but I say this: perfect hard-boiled eggs are best eaten fresh. I eat mine within a half-hour of peeling. So unless your making them for a bunch of people, like on Passover, just make two or three.

Lid goes on the pot, pot goes on the stove, sharks in the stove, our shark. Wait, what? Oh, just put the lid on the pot and the pot on the stove, then turn the stove on to high. Check the pot frequently to see if the water is boiling. If you don't want to check the pot frequently, you lack the proper motivation to make perfect hard-boiled eggs. Anyway, when the water boils turn off the stove but DO NOTHING ELSE! Leave the lid on the pot and the pot on the stove (sharks in the stove, our shark) and set a timer for 18 minutes. This is the sitting time.

eggs in a pot

Don't do this
Don't do this, leave the pot lid on and turn off the stove.

When there is 1 minute left on the timer, take a mixing bowl and fill it with cold tap water. Put ice in it, but not too much ice, you're not transporting organ transplants, you just want the eggs to cool off so they stop cooking. I find that 1 to 3 ice cubes per egg is good, depending on the size of the ice cubes. Don't forget about water displacement, don't fill the bowl up all the way with water and ice.

Ice water

When the timer goes off, use a spoon or specialized egg handling device (my implement was bestowed upon me by my mother, like Excalibur) to transfer the hot eggs into the icy waters. This is the cooling time. Set the timer for 20 minutes.

The egg mover

I am convinced that during the boiling, sitting and cooling in water, some of the water has permeated the egg shell (though I don't know it for a fact). This will make it easier to peel the eggs, which you will do when the cooling time is up. Some people put unpeeled eggs in the fridge to eat at a later date, but this will dehydrate them as moisture diffuses out of the shell. Fresh eggs taste fresh; old eggs, not so much.

Cooling your eggs

My shiny huevos

Peeling. Some people find this to be the most irritating part of making herd-boiled eggs. It can be. It depends not only on how long they cooked and cooled, but on the eggs too. Some eggs just don't want to give up the shell. It's okay. Maybe the next batch you make will be better. If you make them enough you will eventually get some perfect ones. You will also learn finesse, which is what it really takes to peel an egg.

How the shell should peel off

Finesse that membrane!


To start the shell removal process, I put a paper towel down on the counter. I don't smack the egg straight down, I come at a slight angle and then turn the egg around while tapping it on the counter at an angle the whole way 'round (like a cork-screw) until I'm at the other end. Why not straight down? What I'm trying to do is to coax the membrane that is between the hard shell and the egg (but mostly attached to the hard shell) to slip away from the egg and glide on is shiny smooth surface. It does not always work, but that is my technique.

Next, look for any place where a bit of shell is sticking up. This is the only time you might use you finger nails, and only if you really have to. once I get a bit up, I try to slide the bottom of my thumb between the shell and the egg. This is the finesse part. If Zeus is pleased that day and the membrane is sticking to the shell and not the egg, it usually comes right off and I slide my thumb around the egg in a cork-screw pattern, or whatever it takes to knock the shell off. I'm describing a best-case scenario, of course. If it does't work, try another spot on the egg. I have shelled eggs in seconds with this method, but not every time.

If the peeling experience does not go that way at all, don't worry, the egg is still good. Throw finesse by the wayside and go to town. You may rip off some egg white, but it happens.

Peeled eggs

I don't care for that membrane I had mentioned. If your making egg salad its not as big a deal, but if you are eating the hard boiled egg as is, I suggest removing it. It can be very hard to see and there may be small bits that don't come off with the rest. Run the egg under cool tap water and slide the fleshy pad of your thumb around the egg. In places where it is smooth and slippery, the membrane has been removed. If you hit a spot that is not as smooth, you've got membrane. Use your fingers as pincers to find and edge of the membrane and pull it slowly, trying to get as much as possible.

Even if the shell came off easily, I always run them under cool water while rubbing them. This removes any tiny bits of membrane, or worse, shell.

Hot sauce and hard-boiled eggs

Now eat your eggs. The yolks should be perfect. If you used raw eggs that were a little too old, you might encounter some softer spots on the whites. I like to cut my eggs in half and pour JalepeƱo hot sauce on them.


Also, read about the time I made hard-cooked eggs in the oven.

Friday, January 18, 2013

That time I made Chicken Satay

Satay My Way

Note: This is from 2006, and I originally stated that it was my first time cooking chicken. That can't be right, can it?

You won't be needing bamboo skewers where you're going. This was my first attempt at cooking chicken. I cooked it with no one in the house. All I had to go on was myth, heresay, and what I have heard from people who actually know how to cook. The best I was hoping for was the greatest thing I've ever eaten. The worst I feared was a ragging grease fire and salmonella poisoning. The result was something inbetween.

My marinade consisted of 1 cup of plain yogurt, a teaspon each of garlic and ginger, and a table spoon of turmeric. I felt no need to skewer my satay, as I find it easier to eat and they were not necessary for cooking. I learned that larger pieces were unwieldy in the pan and that you can kill a wok if you don't use enough oil (as my mom pointed out when she came in towards the end of the operation). Overall it was okay. Good for a first attempt. It was a bit bland, but I picked the simplest marinade I could find. My marination technique was somewhat unrefined, but it got the job done. The darker pieces got a 30 minute marinade bath while the lighter ones sat with a brush of marinade for about 15 minutes.

My main problem is that I don't think about obtaining food until I'm hungry, so cooking my own meat just adds to the wait for food. I probably would have been done sooner, but I was really paranoid about salmonella. But it was okay. I washed it down with Rolling Rock. If you're going to buy your beer in the supermarket, go for the cheap stuff. Otherwise your better off going to a distributor. Rolling Rock is far better than any of the popular Dutch beers. And the Yodels didn't hurt either.

Originally posted on aperturequiet

Thursday, January 17, 2013

How to make hard boiled eggs in the oven.

Aka, how I won't be making them from now on. Here is a photo of my oven-baked hard-cooked egg. I'm not really impressed with the oven technique. They were no easier or harder to peel than boiled ones (that has more to do with the age of the eggs, the time you soak them during cooling and technique), they came out yellow, had burn marks and the muffin pan has to be one of the more pain-in-the-butt pieces of kitchen hardware to wash by hand. Nothing and nobody makes better hard-boiled eggs than me and my little steel pot. P.S., I turned this batch into egg salad. Experiment over. 

In case you want to try it, put eggs in a muffin pan and put them in a 325° oven for 30 minutes. Then cool in ice water for 20 minutes, then peel. This recipe came to me from the internet, but originally came from Alton Brown (specifically his book I'm Just Here For The Food, which I have owned for quite some time.)

Stay tuned for a future post wherein I make perfect hard-boiled gets with my little steel pot.

UPDATE: Read all about making perfect hard-boiled eggs!