Thursday, December 29, 2011

HGE review: Beef Strips from the Backpack

For those of you who haven't heard, a few weeks ago I purchased a really sweet dehydrator. And have been drying fruit and making jerky almost every week.

Well, I decided to try out a marinade/recipe for jerky from the hunger games cookbook. It's called Beef Strips from the Backpack in reference to the jerky that Katniss found in the only thing she was able to grab from the cornucopia in the 74th hunger games.

Anyway, I purchased 5lbs of beef sirloin tips from the local Hispanic butcher here in Falls Church with the intent of using half for the HGE recipe and half for a more traditional teriyaki recipe. Either way I should end up with a little over a pound of jerky!!!

The great thing about getting meat from the butcher rather than the grocery aisle is that you can save a lot of prep time by having the butcher cut your jerky strips for you! Just specify the thickness and they cut away!! For jerky 1/4 inch thick will do.

After procuring the beef it was on to making the marinade, and being an amateur foodie, I had all the ingredients at home already.

Although I have made jerky a few times in the past, I am by no means an expert so it was fun to try to mix up a new marinade. I usually just take the easy route by just using kikoman teriyaki sauce and add a bit of habanero sauce to spice it up. But the HG recipe was a bit more complex, with honey, and tabasco added to the usual soy and Worcestershire sauce, and spices.

Throw everything in a ziplock bag and wait 12+ hours. Then dehydrate!

After about 6 hours here's what I got:

Delicious dried goodness!!

It. Is. So. Good.

I served some up to my roomie and Freddi from the bike shop and they are hooked! We are planning to make another batch this weekend.

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Monday, December 26, 2011

HGE 2 (Mallark Family French Bread)

Disclaimer: I have never baked bread before this.

One of my favorite foods, ever since I was a kid, is French Bread. I love the crunch of the crust. So much so that I would steal both ends of the bread for maximum crust crunchiness. So, of course, the Mallark Family French Bread would be my next endeavor.

Since, I have never baked bread before, I decided to follow the instructions in the book but also I did some research on YouTube. Enter: Julia Child

So, from the book I got the instructions and the formula for the bread. From Julia I got the technique. Here's what I got:

As you can see, I mixed all the ingredients in a large bowl, as per the instructions in the book. Those of you who have baked bread before will see my error right away. Those who don't, worry not. I will explain later.

Here's a pic of the rolled dough, rising and looking very much like bread! Note that I do not have a baking linen or whatever Julia called it, so I I used a nice pillow case I had (newly washed) and coated it in flour and it works just fine. One thing I did notice tho, was that the bread was not rising as much as what the book said or the video showed...

In this next pic, I have the bread in the oven and have been spritzing it with water for the first 6-8 minutes of baking as per the instructions of Julia Child. The book recommends doing this in addition to putting a hand full of ice cubes in a pan below the bread. I didn't think my oven would like that so I opted for just the spritzing.

Here's the finished product. A bit on the puny side, length wise, but man they felt heavy... Which brings me to the error of my ways. I had not "activated" the yeast before mixing it with the flour. Apparently, you have to dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup or warm water before you put it in with everything else. Something that the book FAILED TO TELL ME! I guess this might be common knowledge, but no. I didn't know. So i had bricks for bread.

It tasted good. but man were they solid!

So I decided on Christmas eve to make another batch at my parent's place. With my new found knowledge on the mysteries of yeast, I was able to make the dough rise! Here are a couple of pics of the finished products:

The house smelled amazing and the bread tasted awesome. The honey and butter glaze added a nice sweetness to the crunchy crust that normal French bread does not have. The inside was soft but not as airy as regular french bread. If you want more air pockets in the bread, I'd let the dough rise 2 times like what Julia Child recommends.

I loved baking the bread, and also loved the finished product so much that I will be making this bread again and again. In fact, I bought a bunch of yeast packets and 2 more bags of flour! I know my sister and my parents will be expecting a couple of loaves from the next batch.

As for the first batch... The Bricks? The two that I took to my parent's place were put to great use. The doggie got a couple of new chew toys!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Hunger Games Experiment

Over the last couple of months I have been reading the Hunger Games Trilogy and got completely hooked on them. In the process, I came across: The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook, by Emily Baines. Truth be told, I initially bought the cook book as a gift for @emysue, since she was the one who turned me onto the Trilogy in the first place. But since she raved about the cookbook quite a bit, I had to get my own copy.

Since getting my own copy I have decided to try and make all 150+ recipes from the cookbook which are recipes gleaned from the actual trilogy. You can call it an obsession for food, or call it a hobby, but my goal is to make most, if not all, of the meals from the HG book. So here it goes...

I only see it fitting that I start the Hunger Games Experiment (HGE) with Katniss Everdeen, the main character's favorite dish: Lamb Stew with Dried Plums.

First off, all prunes are dried plums... I learned that at the grocery store while I was shopping for ingredients when I couldn't find dried plums. Turns out, for marketing reasons they label them as Prunes. Just like rasins are not called dried grapes. I guess Lamb Stew with Dried Plums does sound more appetizing than Lamb Stew with Prunes. Bleghh!

So I got all the ingredients and decided to make it last night. The recipe is pretty straight forward. A pretty basic stew... You brown the meat, saute onions with garlic, deglaze... etc.

Add some stock, add the veggies and herbs and cook for a long time...

What threw me off was the addition of sugar. (quite a lot, if you ask me) and ginger ale. I thought nothing of it at the time, but Im here to just follow instructions.

After about 1 hour of prep and cooking and 2 hours of waiting for it to get cooked, this is what i ended up with:

Looks pretty good? It smells very good... but did it taste good? Of all the food that is presented to Katniss at the Games in the Capitol, does it live up to the hype?

Well... It is good. Between the plums, the ginger ale, and the additional sugar, the stew is sweet. Literally, sweet. The meat is very tender and the taste is almost delicate. You get hints of earthiness in the lamb shanks. The sweetness of the broth and plums, which have mostly disintegrated to mush, off set this taste in a good way.

If I were to cook this again, I would completely 86 the sugars, brown and white. And also put in the plums within the last 20 minutes of cooking in order for it retain some of its mass.

Was it worth the hype? I've had better Lamb Stew, but I guess if I lived all my life in District 12 subsisting on the Capitol's rations and the occasional wild game, I can see why Katniss would love this. My guess is it's the sugar. ;)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

2011 Pumpkin!

Here my 2011 pumpkin. I also have a video of the making of this on my Facebook timeline. You should check it out.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

My co-worker made these

A few weeks ago, I had a coworker make some custom grips for my 1911 and they came out sweet! He has this awesome hobby of making really nice cutting boards and I thought it might be cool if he tried his hand at making grips. If anything he has a use for scrap wood. These turned out great. I can't wait til he makes me the stripe ones like his boards. More pics HERE

Thursday, June 30, 2011