Monday, March 26, 2012

Peanut Butter Ice Cream

A side-effect of knowing your kitchen is going to be out of commission for a few weeks is that the drive to use it increases.

This past weekend saw some excellent meals - amazingly simple and delicious pork chops from Julia Child (the secret is butter), tasty potatoes, stuffed chicken thighs, and waffles from Robuchon (these were not all in one meal).

But the unseasonable heat from last week (which I am thrilled has broken) led to some cooler options as well.

Among those was peanut butter ice cream.

A nearby restaurant has some as part of a rather good dessert of chocolate ganache, caramelized banana, and the ice cream.  The ice cream is the best part, although caramelized bananas are always tasty.

Now, knowing a bit about making ice cream, and having settled on a reliable and delicious base recipe, I knew this was something I could make at home with relative ease.

Note: This could destroy any diet plans you have.

Peanut Butter Ice Cream

Ice Cream Maker
Wooden spoon
2 qt pot
2 big mixing bowls
1 medium mixing bowl (that fits inside one of the big ones)
Silicon/rubber spatula for scraping down sides

2 cups whipping/heavy cream
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of kosher salt
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup + 1 heaping tablespoon peanut butter

Prepare an ice bath - half fill one of the big bowls with water, and dump a whack of ice cubes in it. If you want, you can also add salt, which speeds up the release of the cold.

Combine the cream, milk, sugar, and salt in the pot.  Heat over medium heat, stirring regularly, until just scalded (small bubbles for along the side) - or 175F if you're being precise (I am). Remove from heat.

Whisk the egg yolks in a large bowl until creamy and thickening. 1-2 minutes by hand, or use an electric beater.

SLOWLY ladle about half the hot cream mixture into the eggs, WHISKING THE WHOLE TIME.  If you put the cream in too quickly, or aren't stirring the eggs, you can end up cooking and scrambling the yolks, which makes for breakfast, not ice cream.

Add the egg-cream mixture back into the pot, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.  Cook until thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. The traditional method is to run your finger through the coating on the back of the spoon, and if the line holds, it's good. 185F is the max temp it should be.

STRAIN the mixture into a clean bowl and place the bowl into the ice bath, careful not to let the water into the mixture.  Stir occasionally until the mixture is cold.  You may need to add more ice to the bath, you may not.

Remove from the ice bath.

Combine about 1 cup of the mixture with the peanut butter and stir/whisk until combined. Add the peanut butter mixture back to the rest and stir until combined.

Pour the whole thing in your ice cream maker according to its instructions.  When it's done, transfer to a container and freeze for 3 hours to harden.  Or just eat it soft.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Leafs still suck, our Mayor and his lapdogs are still idiots, and I still have no idea what my final photography project will be.

Leafs - 8-0?? 8-0?????? WHAT. THE. FUCK.

Yah, it's Boston. Yah, they own us. Still 8-0?? You can't throw the whole season in ONE game guys! You have to lose them one at a time! Damned Leafs can't even lose right.


OK Blue Jays!

Brett Lawrie's spring training numbers? 9 games, 23 AB, 5 runs, 14 hits, 6 doubles, 1 triple, 8 RBI, 1 walk, 1 strike out, 5 stolen bases, .609 avg, .625 OBP, .957 SLG!

Out with a groin strain.  Pulled himself from the game. All indications are he's a full-throttle player but a smart kid. Has superstar written all over him.


Hey, let's say you really tied yourself to a failing plan for subways, but your council has all the evidence that supports light rail transit instead, and the citizens of your city are slowly swinging that way because they have brains and can see the evidence.

Do you

A) Provide feasible counter-evidence supporting subways as a better long-term solution, along with at least a bare-bones plan for funding the subway?

B) Enter into an intelligent debate in an attempt to find a workable compromise between the plans.

C) Call the latest commissioned report "hogwash", without any evidence, because it 100% supports LRT development as the best option even when money isn't taken into account. Then have one of your lackey councillors hand out pictures of LRT crashes to the opposition, including pictures of a couple that died in one, considering that some sort of evidence that subways are better.

If you said C, then you may be qualified to be Mayor of Toronto! Actually, no, you aren't qualified, you're an idiot who might get elected by people who were too lazy to spend 5 seconds looking beyond your obviously empty promises.

Remember kids - things crash! You know what crashes more? Cars! Also bikes. And planes. And people running, or walking but not looking where they're going.  Oh, and subways sometimes. Devastatingly so.


Final project is due in a couple weeks for the latest photography class. Subject - whatever the hell I want.  Just make it look purdy.

Except I have no idea what I want to do.  Poker night last semester didn't work as I wanted. So I'm hesitant to set up a whole scene again.

My latest thought was origami.  I have a rather kick-ass Zombiegami book I got for Christmas, with coloured papers and complex designs.  My first attempt from it half worked out, but if I actually started folding when not watching TV, I imagine I could get a nice little paper zombie apocalypse going... a couple set pieces and it could be something interesting.

Yah, I'm liking that more all the time. It's good to type things out.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Nothing misleading in the title, time once again to talk about my Leafs and my Jays.

Leafs season = dead.  It has been for a couple weeks actually, but now everyone's pretty much admitting it. They've won one game under their new coach, lost their best player for essentially the rest of the season, and have lost all offensive capabilities.

Sure, they're showing improvement defensively, but they can't score. Kessel is struggling, as expected, under Carlyle's direction - the coach has the nerve to try and turn Phil into a two-way player! How dare he try and impose more dimensions on our leading scorer!

Yah, the remaining games are a play-for-your-job exhibition, and try out for a few younger guys.  They also seem to be an acid test for Jonas Gustavsson. He's played all but one game since the coaching change, including back-to-back twice, one of those being a night game followed by an afternoon game. Reimer's one game was a 5-2 loss. The holes are being flagrantly exposed.

So naturally, the fans are giving up here. No, not forever, but between gorgeous weather and terrible play, we're forgetting games are on, or finding better things to do than watch the Buds lose again.  The talk has turned to hopes of a last place finish (although doing worse than Columbus or Edmonton would be incredibly difficult), and a bottom five seems almost assured, so at least we get a shot at the first pick.

Yah, the death rattle of a season that collapsed - playing for last.

Fuck, even Buffalo is ahead of us in the standings. Damn you Vinnay!!

So Jays.

I paid a ton for opening game tickets the other day through StubHub.  Why? Well, because the game's sold out. Opening day always is, especially with Boston in town.

The Jays are a different story than the Leafs, but have parallels.  There are still plenty of question marks on the rebuilding team, but the direction is clear. The team is exciting, and will play fun and entertaining ball this season.  4th place in the AL East is still very likely, but a fight for 3rd is possible.  Or who knows? A few surprises, a bit of maturity, some solid closing relief, and maybe they're fighting for the new wild card spot, which in the AL East usually means fighting for both wild card spots.

Regardless, I'll be sitting with my brother - a huge Jays fan, on opening day and cheering for the boys in blue and white.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Post-Deadline Moves

The Leafs largely stood pat during trade deadline time. A couple small trades that affected the Marlies more than the big team.  I was fine with it. I agree with Burke that you don't dismantle your rebuild to start over.

But with the trade deadline in the rearview, it looks like Burke's got more time on his hands to get other things done.

Like firing Ron Wilson. I was shocked. Not because he didn't deserve it, but because there were only 19 games left and Ron and Brian were BFFs.

In standard Burke fashion, he then brought in another buddy - Randy Carlyle, formerly of the Ducks. I liked the line in one article that said he'd replaced a hard-ass with a harder-ass. Another tough coach, but one with a slightly different gameplan and not much time to implement it.

First game under Carlyle? A win. Whoopee.

17 games, 4 teams to jump, some of them on a hot streak. He has his work cut out for him. The playoffs are still pretty unlikely, but less so than a week ago.  If nothing else, the players should be playing to impress from here out. Look for guys like Komisarek, Steckel, and Schenn to step up their games as they seem to fit into his coaching style more comfortably, and will be rewarded for hard work.

Then, about an hour ago, it was announced that Mikhail Grabovski signed a 5-year contract extension. Our second line centre is now worth $5.5 million a year apparently. On first look my jaw dropped. Figuring him in the $4-4.5 mil range.  But on closer inspection, his stats are right there with Ryan Kesler or Patrice Bergeron, excpet in +/-.  But in this case, a +7 on a -7 club has to be weighed against the much better +/- of Vancouver and Boston.  One could argue he's better than Kesler when you take that into account.  So now $5.5M doesn't seem too out of line, except that he has to prove he's worth it over the next 5 years.

So, $7.6 mil left in cap space next year.  Our only UFA of any interest being Jonas Gustavsson (Joey Crabb is cheap).  Plus a few RFA's that could be worth holding on to.

But what does this do for Lupul's contract? We've got him for one more season at $4.25 mil and he's having a hell of a year. Extend in the off-season? Wait until partway through next to see if he can keep it up? If he can, he's worth $6.5-7M.  Kessel too. Certainly, they're worth more than Dion Phaneuf's $6.5 mil.

Anyway, two big question marks have been removed, providing stability for the remainder of this season. If nothing else, the next dozen and a half games will be used to assess what needs to be addressed in the off-season, and who will be packing their bags. I'd guess that names like Nash and Parise won't be seen on the back of Leafs jerseys though.

Tit for Tat

Yah, yah... Toronto politics.

Okay, quick recap: Toronto had viable transit expansion plan and funding. New Mayor comes in, tries to scuttle plan for some unaffordable less expansive plan that is all underground because he wants that, despite driving everywhere. Council grows a spine and stands up to him, with major help from his hand-picked head of the Transit board., who I can only believe learned something about the city's transit by being in charge of it. Mayor rejects compromise that would make him look like a winner and quasi-decent leader who is learning from mistakes. Council restores old plan, tells Mayor to go fuck himself.  Mayor calls council irrelevant. Mayor's lackeys fire Chief General Manager of TTC, who has worked there 35 years. Why? Because he did his job and told the truth about how dumb the Mayor's plan was.

Mayor and Councillor Stintz (TTC board Chair) both wanted to revamp the board. They reached a compromise, and then something happened on the Mayor's side that derailed the whole thing. Likely that he refused to acknowledge the will of the council. Compromise was 5 Councillors,  4 citizens, current board in place until June.

Yesterday, Council shitcanned all the Mayor's lackeys from the TTC board. The 5 lapdogs who fired the GM are now wondering what board they can sit on now. They also changed the makeup of the board - now 7 councillors, 4 citizens, with the councillors being appointed immediately, citizens coming on in June.

Board, including Chair was dissolved, and then a new one voted on. Stintz was re-elected as chair, and the 6 other members were minus all the Mayoral asskissers from before, replaced with a heavier pro-logic group. In short, Mayor gets his ass handed to him again. This time, the vote in favour of Stintz' plan was even more in her favour than the last big one.

So now there's a TTC board that's aligned with council, meaning yet another avenue of roadblocks from the Mayor has been repaved for smoother driving.

Oddly enough, Mayor Ford has yet to open his mouth yet, likely because his handlers have pointed out it's harder to put his foot in it that way.  He was barely in the meeting yesterday - you know, where he should be as a leader.

Now, some leaders realize that they have to reach a compromise with the representatives they supposedly lead. This can be done either by meeting them partway, bullying, bribing, or convincing.  Ford is not great orator. He's shown that his arguments time and again lack any validity in the world of truth and logic, so convincing is right out. He successfully bullied and bribed for a while, but has since run into issues bigger than his short term threats and promises. He's been offered compromises that are HEAVILY in his favour time and again and rejected them without a second thought.  Most people would realize they're beat at this point and that maybe they're part of the problem. Some people, like our esteemed Mayor, entrench themselves further, bury their head in the sand, and throw tantrums.  He continues to neuter himself in the eyes of the city and the province. He continues to be an embarrassment to those he claims to represent.

And as he continues to lose power and face, he'll continue to lose supporters. Those who still vote unquestioningly with him will drift. Those who have become so embedded with him that they can't escape will seek spin. There's his major ring-kisser who has shifted his rhetoric to include his riding more often now - possibly in an effort to play the "I fought for my riding's best interests!" card when elections roll around again, and hope that's enough to beat the "He stuck to the Mayor like a conjoined twin!" spiel from whoever his opponents will be.

As before, if nothing else, he's made the citizens of Toronto give a damn about their political process.

Monday, March 05, 2012

A Dozen Things Change Before You Start

Kitchen reno.

The room looks no different than a month ago, but swaths of my time have been consumed by working on it.

Things change. A couple weeks ago I had my cabinets picked out, and some idea on appliance. Last week I no longer had those cabinets picked out, but had changed my mind twice on a fridge. Today, new cabinets picked, but with custom modifications (ie.- the drawer fronts are terrible, so different ones must be found), and I'm fighting over the countertop (I want it, my guy is having a hard time getting it). Oh, and the price went up a few grand because I don't want to be breathing urea-formaldehyde while watching my doors warp.

I haven't even looked at tiles yet.

I find it interesting that a kitchen reno (or any reno, but this works better here) mirrors an ad hoc recipe in so many ways.  You have a general idea for the finished product, be it room or roast, and you know what general ingredients are needed. However, as you mix items together, and discover new ones, you keep altering the mix. A change in one spice might mean discarding another. A different fridge model now means you have to run a water line across the room. Luckily, the concrete ceiling has opened up the opportunity for hidden infrastructure in the small dropped drywall that's required.

Meanwhile, pages of "don't ever buy this crap brand" fly by in my search for appliance reviews. Apparently nobody makes anything that doesn't explode. Caveat emptor? Perhaps Caveat lector when it comes to reading reviews. Am I right Latin majors? Yah.

But this is a multi-course meal where timing is key. Cabinets have to be ordered this week. Tiles have to be waiting for installation 2 weeks before the cabinets arrive. Paint a few days after that. Countertops need to be in after the cabinets are installed. Appliances have to arrive at the end, but the old appliances have to be out before demo begins. Oh, and don't forget the sink and faucet in all that.

But hey, mise en place. If all these ingredients are lined up, prepared, and portioned at the start, the whole process goes more smoothly. I've got the cabinets figured out, barring any curve balls (touch wood), I've got my stove, microwave, and brand, I just need a model. Sink? Still some work on that front. Faucet? Not even up to bat. Tiles for the backsplash? An idea for sure. Floor? Need to see what's out there. Some countertop and door samples would be nice for that bit.

Paint? Yah... see everything else first.

If cabinets are ordered this week (they should be), then I have a bit less than a month to get the rest in line, and two months before I'm clumsily chopping garlic while being in awe of my new oven and trying to get used to the sound of ice getting automatically dumped into a bucket. I'll wait a while after that before I look at my bank account.


There's a relatively new restaurant in Toronto called Woodlot. I don't think I can over-recommend it. A small menu of delicious food and excellent drinks.

I went last month and ordered what was essentially a beefed up Gin & Tonic, then ordered another one because it was delicious.

I didn't note all the ingredients, but one that stuck out was orris root. I'd never heard of this before, and ye olde Googles turned up some answers. It's an iris root that's been dried and is commonly used in perfume, although it was once an herbal medicine.

So, not something that shows up in your local grocery store.

But, then I found some store of impossible-to-find herbs and spices not that far from me, and lo they did have this dried root.

Then Absinthetics went and tweeted about ras el hanout, a north African spice mixture that can contain orris root, and this got me thinking back to that drink.

So last night I searched my brain for what else was in that drink of many weeks past, and came up with something, while not the same, still solid, if a bit different.

I put around 1/2 a teaspoon of dried orris root in a tea ball and dropped that in 3.5 oz of good gin (I was running low, so it was a combination of Hendrick's and Tanqueray). The longer you let it steep, the more of a flowery flavour it imparts.  I'd go with lavender, even though the root's been compared to violets (and it's from an iris).  So unless you want to drink a bouquet, don't overdo it.

Along with the teaball of root, I dropped in a slice of lemon, a bay leaf, and a couple dried juniper berries (a la José Andres' gin and tonic, which has caused a not-cheap addiction to buying Fever Tree tonic whenever I pass it). This all sat in the gin while I prepared dinner and the rest of the drink. Perhaps a bit too long.

I put a glass in the freezer for a bit, and when I was ready to finish the drink, I dropped some ice in and poured in a bit of vermouth.  The vermouth as swirled with the ice, and then dumped out, with the ice kept in the glass.

I took out the root, and dumped the rest into the chilled, vermouth-coated glass. I then topped off the glass (about 50%) with some Fentiman's Tonic Water and gave it a quick stir.

The result? A gin and tonic with more depth and complexity. Yes, there was definitely some flowery flavour in there, since I had no idea how well the orris root would work - next time, less time steeping.  But very drinkable, and a nice change of pace.

Friday, March 02, 2012

*I* Found it Amusing

Our last class assignment was to replicate a photo we found. Could be a classic one, an ad, something off the web, whatever.

The teacher asked us to send him a copy of the image first, so he could make sure it was feasible - that it wasn't 90% digital manipulation, or involved impossible lighting/angles, etc..

So we all do our shots and bring them in.  One student puts hers up, the original being strawberry slices spread out in concentric circles, used as an ad by another photographer.  She replicated as best she could, the major difference being that her slices weren't as perfect as the ones in the original. The teacher pointed out that for a shoot like that, he'd probably buy boxes of strawberries in search of the perfect slices.  I imagine he'd use the leftovers to make various desserts.

Anyway, as the class is comparing the photos, someone asks, "isn't that slice there just the other slice rotated?"

The class draws closer, and we soon notice that ALL the slices are the same slice, scaled and rotated. The whole strawberries in the photo are the same strawberry, scaled and rotated. In short, the whole thing was Photoshopped.

One slice, one berry, a whole bunch of copy and paste onto a white background.

The teacher missed it. The student did a decent job of replicating it in the real world. The original photographer? Well, I'd guess that if your ad isn't a real photograph, it speaks to the quality of your work.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Even The Best Have Issues

A month or two (or three) ago, I picked up some frozen wild boar shoulder.  It sat in my freezer until last weekend.

As my kitchen reno looms, an effort to clear out foodstuffs rolls on, and 2.75 lbs of boar shoulder takes up a bit of room. So out it came, thinking I'd just roast it up like any ol' piece of pork.

Luckily, I looked up some stuff, and it turns out boar can do with some solid marinating. So as it thawed in my fridge, I explored options.

My best friend, who knows me well, got me The Complete Robuchon for Christmas. I had yet to have made anything from it, but this seemed in general vicinity of its alley.  I was right. "Roast Haunch of Young Boar" largely fit the bill, except for the shoulder vs haunch aspect.

So I dutifully gathered the ingredients - pork bones, herbs, juniper berries, shiraz, etc., and assembled the marinade. Piece of cake, except for finding pig bones. Those took visits or calls to 9 different butchers, the last of which was just about to toss his out with the rest of the cuttings from that day's delivery.

Regardless, the meat sat in the marinade for around 20 hours. I took it out, and let it rest on the counter to warm up as I prepared everything else. The probe thermometer still read chillier than I'd like, but time was a-wastin' and I was hungry, so in it went.

Lucky me, I used the thermometer.  See, Jöel calls for "40 minutes at 400, basting every 10 minutes, turning halfway through".

20 min in, the outside of the meat was still cold, the interior temperature wasn't even at room, and there was no way this would be ready.

40 min in the interior temp was now rising steadily.  An hour in, it was approaching the hope it might be done that night.

I was confused. I've done plenty of roasts, and never seen this slow a rise.  I double checked with my Thermapen (another great gift from the same friend)... same reading.  Everything else in the oven (vegetables in the pan, potatoes to the side) was cooking fine.

An hour and half in, I turned it off, let it rest, and decided to only eat the ends.  It was delicious, but also an hour later than I had planned.  Also, the ends were well-done, but a quarter through was medium rare. In the middle was a small section that was still raw.  Not rare. Raw. The thing had been thawing for 4 days, and was under 3 lbs.  No way it was still frozen, but that's exactly how it cooked - as if it was rock solid instead of the floppy hunk of roast I pulled out of the marinade.

Regardless, it generally worked out, but I could only imagine if I'd just followed the 40 minutes instruction - cold, raw meat, bleeding all over the place.  I'm surprised that the Robuchon book would rely on timing instead of temperature. The book is only 4 years old, so it's not like it predates the era of kitchen thermometers.

What I've pulled from that is simple - good flavour combination, but next time I'm cooking it my way.

Also, I can't wait until I have a new oven.