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My latest sojourn into molecular gastronomy was lamb tagine (in retrospect, any beef suitable for stewing would have worked just as well). First I made beef broth in a pressure cooker, cooking a 1 lb. beef bone, half a pound of hamburger (browned in the pressure cooker first), 4 cups of water, ½ cup red wine, and a bit of leek, carrot, onion, bay leaf, and thyme. That all went in the pressure cooker for two and a half hours. The result was beef broth that was as solid a Jello when it was refrigerated. Also, I got 3 cups and only needed 1.5, so I can easily do this again. The next step was pressure cooking 12 oz lamb (cut in 1-inch chunks) and 1.5 cuts of the broth in the pressure cooker for 30 minutes. Once again, it's clear that using the pressure cooker on the absolute lowest possible heat setting is always best. In any case, the result was utterly delicious – I drained off the broth, reduced it, cooked up some diced onion, dried apricot, ginger, cinnamon, cumin, tomato paste, and honey, and then added the reduced broth to this, added the lamb and served over rice (Arborio rice, where I cooked onion in the pot, then added the rice to brown it very slightly, and cooked it with almonds and currants).

Tonight, I'm making Thai chicken coconut soup, and I'll be sous vide cooking the chicken, since that worked out so well before. I definitely need to rig up a better sous vide cooker, but a large pot, baggies, and a thermometer worked well enough last time.

In other news, Ancillary Sword was different than Ancillary Justice - it was smaller scale, but also a bit deeper, and excellent. I'm also guessing that Ann Leckie has as least two more novels in the series, since I don't see it ending with the next book.

The other book I've read recently was the latest Vlad Taltos/Drageran Empire novel by Steven Brust – Hawk. This was the first of these novels that I've actually loved since Issola, it had considerably more life that the recent ones and was a whole lot of fun – in large part because it's about Vlad being proactive for the first time in quite a while. It also has a truly lovely bit at the beginning that will be familiar to anyone who shares my taste in TV cut for paragraph-long quote ) It's not an awesome novel, but it's a heck of a lot of fun.

I was also pleased and fascinated to learn that there will definitely be a Supergirl show, presumably next Fall. It's done by the same people that did Arrow and The Flash, which means it should be moderately good, and given the way licensing works, it will be set in a universe with Supergirl, but w/o Superman, which should be very interesting.

I'm sad that it will be on CBS, both because larger networks typically equal lower quality, but also because if it was on the CW, there could be cross-overs with Arrow and The Flash. In any case, I saw this bit of news on a link from this site about upcoming supers films. There are no Marvel films and only one DC film with a female protagonist, which is a shame, but there are quite a number of "Unknown Movie" for Marvel, and I'm hoping we get to see at least a Black Widow film, and hopefully at least one or two others. However, what I really want is more TV with female supers, in part because I like long-form storytelling better, and more importantly because it's clear (at least to me) that a well done modern TV series is better than almost any movie, and well better than any modern action film, since there is so much more opportunity for character depth and growth. I'm still holding out hope for someday seeing a Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers tv series.
heron61: (Hat)
My adventures in molecular gastronomy continue. I tried chicken soup. Given the basic philosophy, the recipe involved cooking all ingredients separately and assembling them at the end. Step 1 was making the chicken stock, which requires 90 minutes in a pressure cooker. The recipe claimed to make 5 cups of stock and called for 1.5 lb of chicken wings and 1.5 lb of ground chicken (both of which you throw away at the end), which struck me as too wasteful. So I used

1 lb chicken wings (blanch them in boiling water for a minute first and throw out the water)
0.75 lb of ground chicken
100 g sliced onion
50 g sliced carrot
50 g sliced leek
1.5 TBS sliced garlic
½ tsp whole black pepper
1 liter water

Cook in a pressure cooker for 90 minutes. Presumably because I have a $40 pressure cooker and not a fancy $120 one, more steam escaped, so I ended up with 3 cups of stock, but it was 3 cups of seriously awesome stock. I'm used to good chicken stock thickening in the fridge, but this stuff became the consistency of almost set jello – it glopped rather than poured, which at one point almost ending up with half of it glopping on the floor.
So, I supplemented it with 2 cups of good store bought broth, and the next day cooked all that with herbs (adding the herbs at the end preserves more of their smell).

Then, I cooked whole carrots and whole leeks (white parts only) in a pressure cooker (the recipe said 5 minutes, I didn't trust it, so I went with 6 minutes and mildly overcooked them. Also, next time I'll only use carrots that are uniformly thick, the thin parts overcooked even more. If you want a way to cook veggies fast this is it – put a little water in the bottom, place the veggies on a raised platform above (not in) the water, and pressure cook.

At the same time, I tried home sous vide cooking the chicken. Place each boneless chicken breast in a baggie (immerse the baggie in water before closing to get the air out), and cook on the stove at 146-150 F for 50 minutes. I used a dutch oven mostly filled with water, because of the large surface area and large thermal mass. After getting it up to temperature, lowering the stove to the lowest simmer setting, and moving the pot 1/3 of the way off the burner, I got a constant temperature, and put in the chicken. The result was delicious & perfectly cooked. Then, instead of homemade noodle, I asked [livejournal.com profile] teaotter to make her delicious dumplings in 2/3 of the 5 cups of broth, and in the other third I cooked rice noodles for [livejournal.com profile] amberite. The result was very impressive indeed. Not cheap by any means, but a wonderful treat or dish to show off to guests.

The equally wonderful novel is Ancillary Sword by Anne Leckie, sequel to her Hugo, Nebula, & British SF Award winning awesome first novel, Ancillary Justice. I'm 1/3 of the way through and loving this novel as much as the first one. If you like SF at all, buy and read these novels.

Also, as I was getting ready for bed at 2:50 [livejournal.com profile] amberite mentioned a friend of hers in LA said that there was a total lunar eclipse going on. By chance, the sky was actually clear here, and so we both stood out in the yard for half an hour watching a total lunar eclipse, which is the only total lunar eclipse I've ever seen.

Also, as a final and entirely unrelated to any of the above note, after seeing a thread about playing shapeshifters in fantasy games on rpg.net, I wrote up (and added to) a shapeshifter character class that I helped create and extensively played in the early 80s. Because it seems to be the best and most popular extant D&D version, I wrote it up for Pathfinder (ie mildly improved D&D 3.5)
heron61: (Hat)
A few days ago, I read a post by Warren Ellis where he gave a link to a multimedia web-page narrative by the musician EMA, which was in his words "It's as good an illustration of the effect of "fame" on work as I've seen, and of how much stranger and more corrosive it too often is for women.", in it EMA says
"Overall, I think becoming a personal brand was uncomfortable for me. I found it on some level dehumanizing and disassociating. To put it in the most rudimentary Marxist terms: I had become alienated from the product, and the product was me."

Here's her narrative, it's raw and fascinating, and requires scrolling down and then right to see it all.

In any case, I'd never heard of EMA before, but after reading that and discovering via wikipedia that she write music that is described alternately as drone-folk or noise-folk - both of these somewhat dubious-sounding terms were new to me, but I largely enjoy music on the borderlands of folk, so through the wonders of modern music purchasing, I downloaded her most recent album, The Future's Void. I've now listened to it three times and I enjoy it a great deal & highly recommend it. Then I got her previous album Past Life Martyred Saints, which I liked, but not quite as much.

In any case, discovering another musician who I like (and hope to see in concert sometime) got me thinking about how I discover new music and especially new artists. Recommendations from friends or comments like the one from Warren Ellis is one method, another is music on TV shows, primary shows on the CW - I learned of both James Vincent McMorrow and Agnes Obel from watching The Vampire Diaries. Perhaps the biggest source was fan vids - I discovered The Mountain Goats, Flobots, and Maggie Rogers that way. I used to learn about new music from the radio and music videos, but music videos effectively no longer exist as a large-scale creative endeavor, and while I occasionally still listen to the radio, I don't do so to find new music. Such is the changing nature of music and of information in general.

As for food - another experiment from Modernist Cuisine At Home - pressure cooker carmalized carrot soup sounded good, but it called for both carrots and carrot juice (the later being quite expensive if you don't want adulterated nastiness) and I was feeling more like squash, so I went with a version for butternut squash+lemongrass and coconutmilk. I kept the heat on the pressure cooker down, slightly more than doubled the 2 TBS of water they suggested, replaced the butter with coconut oil, and added 3 kaffir lime leaves, as well as some grated kaffir lime peel, and some lime juice at the end. The result was good, but still a bit flat, but a bit of habanero hot sauce (not enough to make it hot, but to give it a bit more freshness and life) did the trick and it was delicious. It didn't make much soup (3 cups for 1 can of coconut milk and 1 lb of squash), but it was exceedingly filling.

Place in a pressure cooker: 1 lb cubed (small) fresh butternut squash, 1 stalk sliced lemongrass, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp baking soda, 1/3 cup water, 1/4 coconut oil (or perhaps butter), and cook for 20 minutes (once the pressure cooker has come to pressure), keep the heat low and you'll brown the squash, don't keep the heat low, and I'm certain it would burn badly, mine browned a lot.

After that, take out the lime leaves, at the rest to a blender along with 1 can full fat coconut milk, 2 TBS lime juice (3 might be better), black pepper to taste, and a bit of hot sauce (not too much), and blend till liquid. Reheat and serve. It went well with a grilled chicken breast I marinated for 90 minutes in fish sauce (1/4 cup), lime juice (1/4 cup), 4 tsp sugar, some powdered kaffir lime leaf, and pepper.
heron61: (Hat)
I just finished an interesting, if somewhat unusually written book that was enjoyable and well worth reading The March North by Graydon Saunders. It's military fantasy, a genre I mostly strenuously avoid, but it is unusually in both the excellent worldbuilding and in being deeply humane - it's set in what is mostly a crapsack world where most kingdoms and occasionally entire continents are ruled by sorcerous darklords who rule by virtue of their vast power - magical talent is common, but extreme magical talent is both very rare and gets nation-shatteringly extreme - there's even a good explanation for why so many sorcerer-kings are deeply unpleasant. However, rather than wallowing in grimdark, as is all too common (and from my PoV, vastly too popular), the novel is set in a genuinely humane and just republic, which was made possible by the development 5 centuries before of a method of harnessing low level and latent magical talent and combining it to great effect, which is used for everything from the military to all manner of public works. Essentially, this is the story of a crapsack world that seems to be getting better (at least locally). The fact that characters are only given gender markers (including pronouns) infrequently, makes for interesting, and entirely non-awkward reading. The only downside of the book is that its only available via Google books (drm-free, but downloading Google books takes non-obvious knowledge of how to do so - hover over the title in your Google Play library, and click on the entirely enigmatic vertical stack of three small squares in the upper right corner of the title that reveals itself to be called "options" and select "Download Epub"). It's also available from Kobo books, but is even less easy to download. That said, it's well worth reading. Here's an example of both the writing and the humane feel )

New TV is a far more mixed bag - Scorpion is entirely dire - the first episode is somewhat fun, if also really shallow and full of truly vast plot holes, the second episode reveals that my guess that its failure condition would be All-about-the genius-man-child-protagonist's-manpain" was proven exceedingly correct - avoid this show.

My verdict is still out on Gotham, the Batman namechecks are fun for comics fans, and it's edging towards moderately good. My initial fear was it would be just another cop-show with occasional Batman backstory references seems unfounded, but it may become too grimdark to watch - I'm somewhat expecting an on-screen hand or finger amputation scene in episode 3 and if I see it, I'm gone for good.

[livejournal.com profile] teaotter likes the first episode we've seen of How To Get Away With Murder. I find legal/law school dramas to be inherently dull and uninteresting, but this one is well acted (so far), so it's a maybe. Having seem downloads of the pilots for both The Flash & Constantine, I'm looking forward to The Flash, but unless the premier of Constantine is better than the download (which sometimes happens), I may try episode 2, but expect to turn it off partway through - if the premier is by some means worse than the downloaded version, then I won't even get that far - the download featured some of the most sterotypical, dull, and entirely unsurprising writing and acting I've seen for quite a while.

In any case, life has been busy and fun. The three of got back from 6 days in Oakland visiting our friends [livejournal.com profile] lyssabard, Sean, and Bryce, who all recently moved there from the DC area and are finding the West Coast as preferable to the East as I did. Lyssa and I also geeked a great deal about an awesome cookbook I recently acquired, which is basically how to commit acts of molecular gastronomy at home. Tonight, I tried the pressure cooker marinara sauce (done as the bolognese sauce version (ie with ground meat and (in my case cashew) cream. Good, but not awesome, in park because the sauce needed a bit more brightness, I may combine the pineapple maraina variation with the bolognese sauce next time. Also, and more seriously, it has an undesired smoky undertone, because the bottom burned a bit. This was my first attempt at using a pressure cooker for something other than soup, and the previously unnecessary and disregarded by me recommendations to keep the heat as low as possible will definitely be used next time. There are some recipes like making the "perfect" over easy egg by cooking the yolk and white separately that Lyssa and I agreed was far too much trouble for any possible benefit, but pressure cooker chicken broth (cooked for an intimidating 90 minutes in a pressure cooker) look very interesting, so experiments will definitely continue.

If it looks like using a digital temperature controller to turn rice cookers into a sous vide cooker seems to be both affordable ((which at first glance looks likely) and possible for someone with limited electrical skills (at first glance, a far more dubious proposition), I'll also likely also begin experimenting with that.
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