Carbonator Cap

As you'll know from my Dry Aging Beef post, I am the proud owner of a Summit Full Keg Beer Dispenser (5 lbs. CO2 Tank Included)Full Keg Beer Dispenser (5 lbs. CO2 Tank Included:

When you have a keg in the kegerator, a CO2 bottle is needed to keep the beer charged.

You will have a CO2 5lb tank, a gauge and a tube with connectors each end.

There are two types of connector for charging a beer keg, one for Domestic and one for European styles. You have to switch out when changing between the two, but it's not hard.

And it's just as easy to switch the connector to the Carbonator Cap.

You can make your own, shown here, or you can buy them here.
The latter are pretty pricey, but I will show you a way to rotate them effectively, yet still have several bottles of carbonated drinks with only two caps.

Here are the ingredients and machinery you need to make club soda.

Carbonator Cap System
You will need to collect a few PET bottles. These are easy to find - any carbonated soft drink in plastic is in a PET bottle. PET stands for polyethylene terephthalate, it's the same stuff they make polyester suits out of.

Carbonator Cap System

Once the contents are consumed, you can re-use these bottles dozens of times for your own home carbonation.

Here is the trick to get lots of carbonated bottles with only two carbonator caps:
use your freezer. Once you have a pair of plastic PET bottles carbonated, freeze them for 1-1/2 to 2 days.

The carbon dioxide will be fixed in the frozen liquid, and you can swap out the expensive carbonator caps for regular caps, and let them come back up to temperature in the refrigerator.

When I first tried this, I used orange juice, but only froze them for less than a day. The frozen froth that came out was a truly intense frozen orange dessert.

You might also want to try carbonated chicken consomme. I like to call it "chicken-up"

Blue cheese infused butter and butter infused blue cheese

Recipe for blue cheese infused butter.
Recipe for butter infused blue cheeese.

This combined recipe is very simple, but does need some elapsed time to bring it to perfection.

Take 1 pound of unsalted butter, and one pound of your favorite blue cheese, Maytag Blue,Roqueforte,or Stilton perhaps.

Cut the butter into 1/4 to 1/3 inch slices and cut the blue cheese the same way.

Interleave the slices, butter-cheese-butter-cheese until all two pounds are combined.

Blue cheese butter infusion

Wrap tightly in wax paper, and leave in the refrigerator for at least a week, up to one month.

At this time, separate the butter and the blue cheese and recombine into separate 1 lb loaves. It will be a bit messy, but don't worry about it.

The blue cheese will have a lovely softened, buttery mildness.

The butter will have a tangy, salty, nutty edge - perfect for sauteeing mushrooms for steak!

Mushroom Ketchup and Mushrooms for Steak Recipes

Mushroom Ketchup Recipe
Mushrooms for Steak Recipe

The mushroom ketchup is from a recipe in Heston Blumenthal's In Search of Perfection: Reinventing Kitchen Classics.

Button Mushrooms in a strainerTake a pound (.5kg) of button mushrooms, pre-sliced is fine, otherwise slice them similarly, and put them in a strainer over a bowl.

Escali 11 LB Primo Digital Scale White - P115WMeasure out 25g (a bit less than an ounce) of salt. For measurements like this I use the Escali Primo Digital Scale which is very accurate, and can weigh up to 11 lbs. It also can measure in grams, which is convenient if you are working from European recipes.

Toss the mushrooms in the salt. Cover the strainer and bowl, and leave in the refrigerator overnight.

partially dried mushroomsThe next day you will have partially dried mushrooms and dark brown mushroom juice, which is going to be full of mushroom umami goodness and pretty damn salty to boot.

Reserve the mushrooms.

For each pint of mushroom juice, add 1/2 cup red wine, 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar, a dash of mace, 10 black peppercorns, 2 cloves, and 1 shallot (or 2 cloves of garlic, or a couple slices of onion).

Reduce the liquid by half, and strain finely, discarding the solid.

Return the liquid to the pan, and add cornflour slowly, until the desired ketchup consistency is reached.

The mushroom ketchup will keep for a month in a jar in the fridge.

When you are ready to prepare the partially dried mushrooms, simply saute them in a generous portion of butter, or for extra specialness, use the butter from the blue-cheese/butter infusion recipe here.

Blue cheese butter infusion

Horseradish Sauce Recipe

First catch your horseradish.

Horseradish isn't that easy to find in U.S. markets, I've only found it about 1 store in 4. However asian markets almost always have them. I love asian markets, they've always got the stuff that's hard to find, and with a busy one with a high turnover, the ingredients will be fresher too.

1 large piece of horseradish (1lb) with outer skin mostly removed
Horseradish, peeled2 tbsp vinegar
2 cups mayo
1 tsp paprika
Here is a one that has been peeled (ignore the ginger).

Cut the root in half and clean your juicer well. I use the Big Mouth Pro.
Hamilton Beach 67650 Big Mouth Pro Juice ExtractorPlace a clean new 4 gallon trash bag in the catch container, and juice one half of the horseradish. This will produce a small amount of juice, and a lot of grindings.
Watch out! The enzymes produced are a hell of a lot stronger than freshly chopped onions, so maybe do this outside, with swim-goggles on!

Combine the juice and grindings in a mixing bowl and mix in 1 tablespoon of vinegar to fix the flavors in.

According to Wikipedia, these enzymes from the damaged plant cells break down sinigrin (a glucosinolate) to produce allyl isothiocyanate (mustard oil), and will irritate your sinuses and eyes.

All you really need to know is that it stings a lot.

Take the other half of horseradish and grate it. Here I am using the Cuisinart 11 Cup. These gratings will give a nice texture to the final sauce.

Add these to the mixing bowl and mix in another tablespoon of vinegar.

Here are the horseradish juice, grindings and gratings just before mixing.

Then just add a couple cups of mayonnaise (more or less to taste), store in a jar, and keep in the fridge for up to a month.

Review: Perfection

A review of
Heston Blumenthal: In Search of Perfection: Reinventing Kitchen Classics.

Yep, it's Alton Brown on steroids.

I am a big fan of Alton Brown, and now I have found an even greater hero: Heston!

Just one thing though - he scares the living daylights out of me - if he weren't in a kitchen the only safe place for him is a padded lockdown.

I've made about two (more now) of the recipes so far, and I am looking forward to doing more. I have already ordered Further Adventures in Search of Perfection and pre-ordered his (very expensive) The Big Fat Duck Cookbook.

On his Fish and Chips:
Alas, no turbot on the US West Coast. Maybe no-one understands me because I use the English pronunciation (like fillet) - pronouncing both t's, unlike the American/French with a silent 2nd t.

I used halibut - love halibut.
His batter method is unnecessarily long-winded. I used a 5lb CO2 bottle with a special adapter for a standard plastic soda bottle instead of a soda siphon, With this exception completed his recipe and found where the book's true value is:

It didn't work for me, but it allowed me to see where to improve my beer batter recipe that I have used for years.
I now use 2/3 beer, 1/3 vodka, (plus a large splash of lemon juice and paprika).

And now I make very small batter batches, don't wait for the every last lump to disappear, batter immediately, and straight in the fryer - all as fast as possible. It is a tangible improvement - thanks Heston!

His chips (french fries) again has what to my unrefined palette is an unnecessary step - the initial boil.
Instead I now extend my initial low temp (300F) fry to 10 mins, and cool completely in the 'fridge.
But I found an improvement - I use a little portable fan to blow over the fries to hurry along the dehydration process - all thanks to Heston!

I also tried the entire steak recipe which was 100% great, and the mushroom ketchup is to die for!

The recipe calls for the meat to cook at (exactly) 120F for 24 hours. Sounds dangerous? Well it hasn't been for me, and I've tried it three times (more now).
This lengthy warming allows enzymes to break down the other proteins in the meat, tenderizing it and adding flavor.

One of these enzymes is Glucuronidase.
Another is cathepsin. There are approximately a dozen cathepsins, which are distinguished by their structure and which proteins they cleave.
The Troponin protein tri-complex and the Actin, Myosin, kinase, Titin (largest), Dynein, Calcineurin and tropomyosin proteins are some of the muscle proteins that are broken down. For example, Actin starts to degrade as the meat passes upwards of 70F (20C).

The reason that Heston sears the meat before the long 120F slow cook (and I know because I did it) is that the Maillard reaction flavors from the sear spend that time permeating through the meat.
Do I care that his reasoning is off at a tangent? NO.
You know why? Because it is the best damn tasting steak I have ever made. Good enough?

And if he tests 5 varieties of potatoes to get the best roast potato, yet doesn't draw a sufficiently tight logical line to satisfy Mr J. Alt, I don't care either. The man has sufficient bone fides for me to trust his judgement and conclusions.
And you know why I doubly don't care? I can't get Maris Pipers in the U.S. anyway!

I used his method of trying every potato I could get my hands on and made my own judgement. *

Which is what any reader of these reviews should also do.

I recommend this book.

* I decided on White Rose. Thanks yet again, Heston!


Bel Cream Maker

I just discovered that there is such a thing as a home double cream maker!

There is a great post here: Cooking in someone else's kitchen: Another historic appliance.

I already sometimes make my own cream

I wonder if I can extend the process somehow to make double cream, take equal parts of this butter and more cream? I'll have to try it. If I can't get it to work, then I will need this handy Bel Cream Maker tool!

Pizza Time: Margharita madness! Assemble, cook, eat.

It's time to assemble the pizza.

First get your oven very hot.

Hot, hot, hot! As hot as it will go.

Here I am using two of my favorite toys, the Hamilton Beach 31199 Counter Top Rotisserie Oven and the Raytek MT6 Mini Temp Infrared Thermometer.

The oven has a huge (for a toaster oven) 1 cubic foot of space inside, and includes convection, so it can cook things real quick. Pre-heat your oven as high as it will go, the highest I could get mine was about 650F. Even higher would be better, so long as you don't start a fire!

Here I was using the oven pan, however I have since had much better result using a 12" terra cotta paver (unglazed) for about $2 from Home Depot.

Another blog of mine documents my attempts to create an oven that reaches 1000F. We'll see how that goes.

Meanwhile, assemble the pizza.

Take 4 or 5 of the oven dried tomatoes and arrange them decoratively.

Then tear pieces of mozarella and intersperse among the tomatoes.

If you want to be genuinely Italian, then hardly put anything on at all. If you want more - have more!

Lay a few basil leaves over the top of all this, then drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil.

Season with pepper and smoked sea salt to taste, then carefully slide into the oven. How you do this is up to you, but obviously it's best to have a proper pizza peel (with a short handle, if you don't have a commercial sized kitchen).

Watch the pie carefully as best you can. Try and rotate it after a few minutes to get more even cooking. It will be ready when some of the mozarella starts to turn brown and bubbles slightly. The time will depend on your oven and how hot you can get it (hot, hot hot!)

Then let it cool for a minute or two - you don't want to burn your mouth!

Use your favorite pizza cutting tool to slice up the pizza.
I like to use the
Zyliss Slicer
because it gives you proper leverage to cut safely, and snaps apart for easy cleaning.

And here we have it, the perfect Pizza Margharita:

Pizza Time: Margharita madness! The dough and the sauce.

Hehe, more Heston madness.

For the dough, have 500g (about a pound) of flour, I used all-purpose, but there is probably some super dough with exactly 12% protein content. Don't know, don't care. Flour is flour to me.

Mix with water in a water-to-flour 17:30 ratio (hey do the math!)
If you are really nuts, you can prepare 1/3 of the dough 12 hours ahead of time, if you can tell the difference, let me know.

[OK, OK.
For the pre: 1/3 = 167g flour, 17/30 = 95g water.
For the final: 2/3 = 333g flour, 17/30 = 189g water.
Divide the dough into 5 equal balls and let rest out of the fridge for 2 hours.

Meanwhile, take half of your peeled tomatoes, cut nearly in half, and squeeze out the juice into a largish stainless steel pot. You are going to boil them to a mush, so no need to be gentle. If the tomatoes came on the vine, put the vines in too - more flavor apparently.
Careful with tomatoes - they are very acidic - so don't put them in a copper pan unless you like the taste of copper and no pan.
Bring to a boil, set to a very low heat, and simmer for ages. Two hours or more. Be sure to stir frequently so the bottom layer doesn't burn. You want a soft mush like thick spaghetti sauce. Alternatively, buy a jar of spaghetti sauce and use that.

Take one ball of dough. Using your hands flatten it out into a perfect circle. If you want to throw it spinning into the air be my guest, I just flattened it out. The dough will be as perfectly circular as you are a perfect person, so try hard.

Take a spoon, or better a ladle, and put some sauce on the dough. Use the back side of the ladle to squish the sauce nearly, but not quite, to the edges of the circle.

Your pizza base is now prepared!

I can't wait for Heston Blumenthal's next offering:
Further Adventures in Search of Perfection and I've decided to splurge on:
The Big Fat Duck Cookbook.

The latter isn't coming out until November of this year, and at $150+ I will need all of that time to save my pennies. I'm going to get a 5% discount for pre-ordering, which counts for a lot at this price!

Pizza Time: Margharita madness! The tomato prep.

OK it's time for a pizza.

Well, not right now. Since I like to take the longest possible time to cook anything, it'll be pizza time in 12 hours or so.
That's what happens when you base your recipes on Heston Blumenthal.

Buy some cheap tomatoes, roma are fine, any will do. Cheap counts, you want at least 7 lbs for all this fuss.

First step, prep the tomatoes. Take out the top part of the core near the vine and discard. Incise a cross in the side for easier peeling. Plunge into a boiling pot of water for 20 seconds (less if very ripe) then into an ice bath.

Keep half of the tomatoes for the sauce.

Halve them, and seed them out, then place on a cookie sheet. Save the seeds and juice for the sauce too.

Drizzle a little olive oil over them, and add a sprinkling of thyme and basil.

Slice up some garlic (I buy ready peeled - bad chef!) and place into the well of each tomato.

Add a powdering of sugar, and add fresh ground pepper and smoked sea salt.

Pop in a convection oven at 225F for 90 minutes, turn then 90 minutes more.


Heston Blumenthal's Twist in the Tail

I made Heston Blumenthal's Twist in the Tail recipe yesterday. Actually yesterday, the day before and the day before that too.

Because I have made a few of Heston's recipes before I pretty much knew what I was in for.

I knew if I was going to that much trouble, I wanted more meat, so I grabbed 5lbs of 7 bone chuck steak on special for 99c lb, and 2 lbs of oxtail at $5 lb (no special there) for the oxtail's truly great flavor.

I bought some cheapo red plonk for $5 for 1.5L, so overall I was able to keep the cost down and the yield high.

I got these really great vegetables, leeks, tomatoes, mushrooms, and on and on. Chop em up, fry em, and add them all in.
And with a sinking feeling I realized that they were all going to be discarded. Sad.

The result? An absolutely insanely great stew. And that is what Heston is all about: insane, and great.

Another relative commented on the interesting and subtle sweet notes in the stew.
I tried to wave it off as being the sweetness of the cooked onions, but nooooo, that wasn't good enough!
So I was shamefacedly forced to reveal that yes, I had caramelized some turbinado sugar in a reduction of red wine vinegar.

There is no limit to Heston's excess!

When relatives pointed out that is really was rather nice of me to go to all that trouble for them, I had to explain that I did this recipe for myself, to see if I could do it.

If I had actually made this FOR someone, I would have exceedingly bitter and eternally hateful thoughts about that person for making me feel obliged to go through such extreme torture for a stupid meal.

Carbonated Chicken Consomme - Chicken-up.

Today I tried my carbonated chicken consomme.

It is really quite strange, it has the mouthfeel of coca-cola or seven-up, the saltiness of potato chips, and of course the chicken/vegetable flavor.

I guess I will call it chicken-up.

It is quite filling (from the carbonation I suppose, the fullness likely won't last long). It would make a good amuse bouche starter for a summer salad lunch on a hot day.

I made chicken broth in the usual way, then clarified this with egg-whites and shells, then chilled it, then carbonated it.

Here is my carbonating system.