Saturday, March 26, 2011

Infinite Spatulas

Today was officially Infinite Spatulas Day, a new cooks' holiday celebrated by yours truly. Every time I turned around, I suddenly realized I needed a spatula for something, and I'd just washed the last one I used - or it was too thick / thin / ugly for the next task.

Yesterday, I prepared the infused milk for the ice cream base and put it in the fridge overnight. I spent way longer than I had expected with the infusing process, and I'm still not honestly sure I got it to a simmer - the problem being that milk forms bubbles from vigorous stirring, regardless of heat.

This morning, I almost made myself late for my gig putting the ice cream base together. When I made the first ice cream, I had used a specific saucepan: after whisking the eggs and sugar in it, I realized it would be too large for this smaller recipe (spatula #1). I eyeballed a small additional amount of sugar, as I could see all of it didn't make the transition. After I finally got a good coating on the back of the spoon, I moved it to the ice bath and stirred in the honey. Once partially cool, I had to strain the mixture into another bowl (spaluta #2).

(The ice bath isn't in the recipe and isn't necessary: it merely accelerates the cooling process. I stole it from the previous ice cream recipe. As long as you stir regularly, it very much compresses the amount of time needed.)

At this point, I discovered that the bowl I had chosen was too small, not for the contents, but for those of us not possessing three hands. The strainer couldn't rest on the rim without pressing into the already-strained ice cream, which meant that I had to lever the handle with my stomach while holding the pot and trying to spatula out (still spatula #2) the remaining amounts. This worked. Sort of.

The directions do not explicitly say to whip the cream before putting it in the ice cream base, but they do say "whipped" cream, so I surmised as such and got out my blender ... 'cause dang, I've whipped cream by hand once and I ain't doing it again (spatula #3 for removal). Then ice cream base into the machine (spatula #4) and for a bonus, I got to taste the soft serve before heading off.

Final verdict (ice cream): Very good, but very strong in flavor - mostly the cloves, I think. Steeping the milk overnight isn't wholly necessary, I would say. The consistency and quantity are perfect.

Upon returning from my gig, I started the soup and promptly kicked myself in the forehead (yes, I am that flexible) for not noticing that the water and beans needed to simmer before the chorizo, onion and fennel rib went in. Drat. I could have done that mise en place while waiting for the beans. Drove myself nuts trying to figure out how many beans to scoop out when they floated to the surface. The directions weren't clear whether you remove the ones that rise immediately only, or how long you're supposed to wait before you give up and let the floaters be. I stopped after 3-4 minutes and seem to have gotten it right. Again, eyeballed adding a small amount of supplementary beans.

No spatulas were harmed in the making of this soup.

I started on the lemon raspberry muffins, which were a breeze to put together (spatula # ... oh, never mind). I think I may have used not quite enough lemon juice. Had a moment of panic when I realized the beans were cooking faster than the recipe indicated, but managed to balance out both portions.

I love having a kitchen island. Need an extra counter? Need it close? Yaaaank. One of these days, I'm going to run over the dog's tail or my foot, and there will be no joy in Mudville.

Had some trouble turning out the muffins. After five minutes, the tray was still too hot to pluck them out (I can't afford to burn my fingers), so I tried inverting the tray and managed to drop some on the floor. Miraculously, they landed paper-side down. I went more cautiously about it from then out.

The immersion blending for the soup went very smoothly. It calls for a coarse puree, so stopping short of a full blend. I was surprised how fast the tortilla strips came together: I had been expecting 2-3 minutes, not a matter of seconds. Be wary of this: the oil burns hot and fast. But one good flip, and they're ready for serving with the soup.

Final verdict (soup): A very tasty soup that (I think) could use some spice to jazz it up. I'll try some cayenne next time. I tried a few of the tortilla strips as recommended, into the soup when serving, but they mush right away. For textural contrast, put a plate by the diner to be added between bites. I sprinkled mine with a little chili powder.

It should perhaps go without saying that I used less than the prescribed amount of onion.

Final verdict (muffins): I must have a hot oven - 21 minutes was maybe even a smidge too much for this recipe that advertised 25. That said, because the raspberries are SO moist, you almost want these a little dry. I wasn't getting a lot of lemon out of the muffins, but that's okay. Maybe I didn't juice quite enough of the lemon. It was a massive lemon, and I'm used to holding back a bit because most recipes don't assume the mutant Jurassic-a-saurus lemons available here, but either I overcompensated or it's not a very lemony recipe. Either way, recommended.

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