We are the Champions!
We are the Champions!
We are the Champions!
Of the world!

And so this morning Boston celebrates the Red Sox winning the World Series.
The Red Sox steamrollering through the regular season.
Steamrollering through the playoffs.
Being close knit and supportive of each other.
Being the last man standing.
Being the last fine man standing.

We Bostonians need something to celebrate after being dragged through the mud of the Kraft Family Big Babies.
How unseemly for these very rich men to bicker in public.
For exposing us to their pettiness.
Their anger, hatred, vindictiveness.
Shame on these very rich, very spoiled men.
Brady. Belichick. Kraft.
Ugh!

For resurrecting sportsmanship.
For returning team-firsters to Boston.
The World Champion Boston Red Sox!
Yayy!

Piero della Francesca, “The Resurrection”  The sleeping man, second from left in the forefront of the painting, is a self-portrait of the artist. della Francesca uses the seated men as illustrations of his mastery of creating depth in his works.

Piero della Francesca, “The Resurrection”

The sleeping man, second from left in the forefront of the painting, is a self-portrait of the artist.
della Francesca uses the seated men as illustrations of his mastery of creating depth in his works.

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Tagging Today
Tuesday, October 30, 2018
My 203rd consecutive postiing.
Time is 12.01am.
Boston’s temperature will reach a high of 52* and the skies will stay sunny.

Dinner is Fresh Linguini with Meatballs. Recipe in the website.

_______________________
Love your notes.
Contact me @ domcapossela@hotmail.com

Here’s Marc Oliviere:

Congratulations, Dom, on your 200th posting!
Hope there are many more to come.

Regards,

M.

ps. Did you send something into Colleen for November 15th? I look forward to reading it.

Web Meister Responds: I did and am looking forward to seeing you there.

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Short Takes: Life in the City — Not all Sordid
Walking through the Public Garden, came across this.
So nice.
So gentle.

For all of us cynics, “Yeah. I gave a buck.”

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Short Takes: Food

So I went shopping for my first hot pot.
I use Whole Foods at Charles River Plaza since it’s on the last leg of my two-mile daily walk for cappuccino.

For meats I bought 2oz of beef tips.

At the fish counter  I bought 6 little neck clams, 4 oysters, 4 shrimp (10-12 to a pound,)
6oz squid bodies, no tentacles.

(I made a separate stop at Hook’s Lobster, just 5 minutes from my apartment and bought 4oz of lobster meat pieces.)

Continuing with my shopping at Whole Foods, I stopped at the vegetable section and bought a medium-sized leek, a head of watercress and a single small bok choy. I also bought a box of “Chef’s Mix” mushrooms.

Whole Foods doesn’t carry fresh udon, my preference, so I bought a 16oz box of fresh linguini, much thicker than the dry and better to emulate udon.

At their sushi counter I bought a bottle of packed ginger. I had wasabi and soy sauce at home.

And then I went home.

Left:
Amanita muscaria (fly agaric), Norway
Poisonous but lovely

Wiki
MichaelMaggs - Own work

Second from left:
Baby bok choy

wiki
Karl-Heinz Wellmann - Own work

Second from right:
Watercress (Nasturtium officinale), a water-loving plant that is used in salads and soups. 

Wiki
Masparasol - Own work

Right:
Still life with leeks by Carl Schuch (National Museum in Warsaw)

 wiki
Carl Schuch - cyfrowe.mnw.art.pl

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Recipe: Hot Pot
We’ll start with bringing 4 cups of chicken stock (recipe in the website) plus 3 cups of water to a boil.

Wash the shells of the little necks and oysters and set them into the boiling broth.
When they open, remove the clams from the broth and then remove them from their shells.
Remove the oysters from the broth 5 minutes after the last clam is removed. The oysters will not be opened.

Chef’s and guest’s pre-dinner treat:
Open the 4 oysters with an oyster knife (very easy since the gentle creatures have passed) and swallow them with the broth in the shell.
Note that we open oysters by inserting the tip of the knife into the rear hinge of the oyster shell and twisting it apart.

All of the ingredients go into the hot pot together:
2oz of beef tips

4 shrimp, (10-12 to a pound)
6oz squid bodies
4oz of lobster meat pieces
1 medium-sized leek, sliced thinly and washed in a strainer
1 head of watercress
1 small bok choy, chopped
4oz mushrooms, sliced.

Actively simmer the whole pot for 30 minutes to allow for the blending of the flavors and the evaporation of some of the water.

Boil 8oz of fresh udon or other fresh strand noodles in water, straining them when still chewy, cooking time about 3 minutes.

The hot pot will come to the table and stay for the duration of the dinner.
Serve the noodles in a bowl. Ladle a little broth from the hot pot over them to keep them loose.
Diners each get a soup bowl and serve themselves, noodles first, and then the hot pot.

Serve with pickled ginger, wasabi and soy sauce.
Also, a shaker of spices assembled to our taste. I used a quarter ounce each of ground cumin, ginger, onion, curry, nutmeg, cayenne, and garlic.

Hot Pot.  Chensiyuan at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Ryuch using CommonsHelper.

Hot Pot.

Chensiyuan at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Ryuch using CommonsHelper.

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The Existential Flaneur added these comments on the “Food Science” of the blog:

 Dom-meister 

howard sitting.png

Someone I know mentioned rubbing baking powder on ribs before cooking them, and I got curious (that is, curious once again; it seems like a fetishistic practice with deep roots that were never explained from the beginning, but are carried on for the sake of tradition, which is a powerful motivator for certain types of personality). I’ll get tired of it, and move on, so it’s nothing to worry about. 

By the way, maybe it’s just me, and I’ll admit I sometimes devote too mindful a close reading even to the most casual of content that passes my gaze, but I do believe I see a continuing expression of what I can only describe as a contemptuousness on your part (a quality of expression which I know you have explicitly foresworn, as being the “old” Dom… the North End aggressively hostile Dom) in your sarcasm regarding other modes of cooking than the one you personally happen to prefer. I’m talking about the remarks you make about baby-back ribs. And I’m not picking a fight, as I would have no dog in it: baby-back ribs are something I can take or leave… if they’re done well, that is cooked with some finesse, I do like them, as I do any well-prepared dish. 

But once again, you generalize to a fare-thee-well about your preference, which I’ll designate as chewiness, or rip-from-the-bone-with-your-teethiness, vs. what you suggest is the vulgar equivalent served up, apparently universally by commercial chains (you’re not too specific; and this is the hallmark of glittering generalities as a rhetorical device, e.g., “oh they all do it!” vs. “Oh Applebee’s (see footnote with corporate recipe) is especially notorious for using methods alleged to tenderize the meat, when what they do is virtually emulsify it, and in the process render it flavorless as meat, which is then masked with a “sauce” that is laden with chemical flavoring agents and high-fructose corn syrup, and called “authentic western barbecue” when in authentic western barbecue all that is usually required is salt, pepper, and very carefully monitored low and slow cooking, sometimes for extended periods of time – a method wholly inappropriate, incidentally, for a cut as delicate as baby-back ribs”). 

I’ll grant you, it’s hard to make a cut that wasn’t really intended to braise to fall-off-the-bone-tenderness (a perfectly legitimate measure of cooking doneness, by the way, depending on the cut; the usual test of a cut, like the short rib, which is laden with inextricable fibers of interstitial tissue, including fat, sinew, tendon, and other connective bits and demands the masterful application of braising and usually highly aromatic braising liquids to permit the meat flavor – short rib being far more flavorful than the scraps of flesh that cling to the bones, without a significant amount of fat that might otherwise be expected to contribute to more of a natural tenderness that are called, in a horrible misnomer, “baby” back ribs, and called that for their diminutive character being the part of the rib where it joins the spine, and not because they are butchered from immature pigs… a usage that carries a sub-text of somehow being more tender because immature, as one would expect the flesh of a baby to be). But I digress. In short, you appear, in this case, and it’s all right to do this, to make as the very old saying goes, a virtue of a necessity. Baby back ribs should not be overcooked to the point of “melting tenderness” as that’s not the best way to get the most out of this largely inoffensive cut, which does provide the atavistic pleasures repeatedly of rewarding yourself for the massive masticatory effort involved with the tiny bits of cooked animal flesh you rip from the many many bones (if there are fewer than ten ribs in a rack, Wikipedia indicates this is styled a “cheater” rack by butchers). But I’m not taking you to task either for making a virtue of etc. … or even of stating a preference for the pleasures of dining off the bone, which you take every opportunity to extoll. I personally find it messy, and I indulge nevertheless, because it enhances the significantly greater pleasure of retrieving and savoring the far meatier portions of other cuts on the bone, by providing so many more bits of meat that have the added, intangible and inseparable qualities of added flavor from cooking so close to the bone, which we all know adds its own significant components to the overall flavor of animal flesh when cooked. 

Rather I am taking you to task for enlarging the franchise of your virtue-of-necessity-making in this case, by the mechanism of the invidious comparison of yourself (one of “us” who are “true carnivores”… smacks a bit of the kind of supremacist and purist thinking you otherwise profess to excoriate, no?) to the vague and unnamed villains who overcook baby back ribs (in particular, as if this cut defines the misbegotten act of overcooking meat as a capital crime, worthy of the particularly grisly punishment you then spell out – with the frisson of cannibalism inherent in the trope you have elected to use, cleverly enough, as we’re talking about eating meat – of those miscreant cooks being eaten by the very species they insult with their ill-advised techniques). The only conclusion is, you are a superior individual, instead of a mere naturally humble human being not afraid to speak up for his preferences in a manner that doesn’t harm anyone, and does so without a hint of privilege stemming from his natural right to ascendancy as a judge of what is good to eat ineluctably and inarguably. Because you have spoken. 

And I do it, because I fear for you, for the corrosive effects of such certitude. You may be right, after all, but the question is, so what? 

There are better ways to get people to do the right thing by themselves. 

Me, I prefer the rack of lamb that is the signature dish of the Indian restaurant in our neighborhood, whose kitchen is overseen by this Pakistani who is an absolute genius with the various sauces each specific dish calls for, depending on the animal, and depending on the cooking method. His rack is marinated in his own piquant sauce, redolent of ginger and lots of other good shit, and cooked à point in the tandoor. It’s only one of two Indian restaurants I’ve been to that bothers to ask to what temperature you want the lamb cooked, and actually do it perfectly to that state. They usually serve eight to ten ribs of the rack, cut into doublets that are separated after cooking and served on a hot cast iron plate with slices of onion and peppers. I eat half of them, sprinkled with some fresh squeezed lemon juice,  one at a time, first with a knife and fork, and then I pick up each scorched rib and nibble off every last little stubborn bit of meat. 

You can keep your goddamn baby back ribs. North Carolina pulled pork with vinegar sauce is better barbecue as far as I’m concerned anyway. 

But, having let some time pass, and pondering your email responses, I guess I’m not done yet. 

Let me just say that I’ve spent some time with Hervé This (the French molecular gastronomy champion) and Harold McGee (the author of the landmark basic text that belongs in every household, for regular study and consultation, so people can understand what happens to food when they do things to it for a more engaging and complex process of consumption, and why it happens. 

I am in a continuing state of perplexity concerning any motive to sprinkle, among other things, either by itself, or in an emulsion or suspension, a paste, a marinade, or a sauce, the chemical leavening agent called baking powder. 

It’s called baking powder for a reason of course. It’s chief application is in baking, which is to say, dishes and other preparations entailing a paste, dough or batter usually consisting of a concoction mainly containing flour made from milled grains, but could as easily be flours consisting of a meal or powder derived from pulverizing nuts, usually tree nuts. And in baking, powders, which are traditionally combinations of an acid and a base – meant to keep each other in a state of non-reactive neutrality until the introduction of either moisture, usually water, or heat, or both – and intended to leaven, that is to raise the volume of the batter or dough or paste, by the expedient of introducing (rapidly) bubbles full of the carbon dioxide gas produced by the chemical reaction of the powder with its triggers (water and/or heat) and formed by the elastic qualities of the bolus of the mixture intended to be raised. This is what makes pancakes rise to fluffiness, instead of assuming no greater thickness than the film constituted of the moisture and flour alone (without a leavening agent), say if you wanted to make crepes or matzo, instead of pancakes or bread. 

And so, I’ve gotten no further than to learn that adding baking powder to the surface of, say, ribs intended for broiling and roasing, will induce a bubbling phenomenon, irrespective of the other flavoring agents advised in the recipe in which the caveat appears about the bubbling. So, it occurs to me that the intent of the baking powder is for the pleasure of the psychological effects of seeing an instantaneous indicator that active things are being done to one’s dinner. 

Bubbles are good, no? 

There is the possibility that by some crackpot logic, there’s the thought that by absorbing the surface moisture of the meat, the baking powder, seeking water to activate itself, is depleting an impediment to drying out the surface and hence preventing it from getting crispy – which everyone has on good authority, though no one can name any authority precisely, except, in a correlative manner, to attest to its compelling qualities by asserting, “I really like it crispy!” and therefore a quality to be sought in certain concoctions coming out of the oven. The fact that the water might as easily have come from the addition of an emulsifying agent, like, ummm, water (you yourself do advise making a paste of water and baking powder) is not to be examined or analyzed. 

The leavening does derive from carbon dioxide gas being generated. And as far as I can determine, this aids in no way in the oxidation of the surface, in fact, might hinder it, which is part of the process called the Maillard reaction which we all look for expectantly as a desirable quality: the browning, the aromatic components, the taste components, all, one hopes, short of the toxic effects of overly carbonizing the organic matter being cooked, thereby producing carcinogens, and other compounds deleterious to health. 

So maybe the baking powder is meant as a healthful deterrent to overdoing it when cooking barbecue, which is generally considered optimal, when not only crispy on the surface, but browned and full of savory complex aromas and flavors. 

Further, though not conclusively, there is no indication that baking powder enhances or even merely facilitates the artifacts of the process of caramelization, also part of the Maillard reaction, wherein sugars in proteins will caramelize and add that many more complex food notes to the dish, especially if it is “finished” with the high heat of open flames, say from a broiler or the embers of a wood or charcoal fire. 

But I started off talking about writing [redacted], and here I’ve gone, again, off the deep end. 

You’re good though, you always leave me with questions. 

[a little later, after some talk, one-sided, it’s true, about baby back ribs] 

I won’t even allow myself the luxury at this juncture of asking you the direct question: why do you put baking powder on your baby back ribs? Mainly because I know I won’t get a direct answer, but something that sounds considerably more gnomic, if not mystical, and all in lower-case. 

I can’t really complain, as I didn’t, expressly, ask you the direct question (though I did ask it, rather cleverly I thought, rhetorically), “why do you put baking powder on your baby back ribs?” And, as if I had asked you, you DID answer in the most indirect way imaginable, and that is, to tell me, yet again, why (and how) you put it on the skin of a raw chicken before roasting it whole. 

I know about that bit. 

It’s long since established that the skin of chicken, or almost any fowl, should be as dry as possible before proceeding with its preparation and exposure to heat. Makes for a more likely crispy, browned appetizing-looking outcome. 

However. 

There is also the problem of cross contamination and thereby a very good reason for not handling it overmuch. 

And there is the fact that if you put the chicken in the refrigerator, which you should do anyway, rather than leave it sitting out at room temperature, which logarithimically increases the chances of proliferation of surface (and internal) bacteria, there is no more desiccating environment for the chicken (or anything else you put in the refrigerator) aside from a dehydration chamber. But why let natural and safe environmental factors do the work of drying the skin, when you can smear it with sodium aluminate sulfate or tartaric acid, either of which tastes really bitter and astringent, mixed with baking soda, to form a paste that looks like crumbly spackling compound? 

Ah, but that’s another direct question, and I won’t ask those. 

With further searching on the indefatigable internet, I did find the following. 

“Adding baking powder to a dry brine can also improve your turkey skin. Not only does the baking powder work to break down some skin proteins, causing them to crisp and brown more efficiently, it also combines with turkey juices, forming microscopic bubbles that add surface area and crunch to the skin as it roasts.” 

https://www.seriouseats.com/2014/11/quick-and-dirty-guide-to-brining-turkey-chicken-thanksgiving.html 

So far, no mention of baking powder on ribs, especially to do what you say (more chewy and rippable), which, as I suggested, is counter-intuitive. Chemically, the components of baking powder, especially the acid (usually the baking soda), would tenderize the flesh, which you say you don’t want. 

Sorry, you haven’t convinced me, about which I expect you respectfully don’t give a shit. I understand a bit better why a surface rub may improve the appearance and texture of the intact skin of roast fowl, but for the rest, I think you’re improvising on the strength of some faith in how it works on chicken, and a fundamental suspicion of science. 

I’ll repeat what I said before though. I completely respect your preference and right to prefer chewy”rippable” baby back ribs. Cheap thrills, I’d call it, but, as always, chacun à son goût... 

xoxo 

hhd 

ps
Cook’s Illustrated (Nov 2016, Roast Turkey recipe), also alludes to rubbing the skin with baking powder for more even browning and crisper skin, but I’ll be damned if I’ll pay them 50 bucks (non-refundable) for another year of their generally authoritarian and arbitrary cooking advice to find out more; as they don’t give access to the full recipe except to subscribers... though worst of all is their imperious notion that they’ve experimentally determined the BEST method for cooking whatever... Gee, I don’t know anyone with that kind of attitude in the kitchen, do you?

Dom responds: 
You’ve got to love Howard’s love of reading and writing.
Just in case you missed it, buried in the 11,000 words he wrote, Howard wrote this:

”With further searching on the indefatigable internet, I did find the following. 

“‘Adding baking powder to a dry brine can also improve your turkey skin. Not only does the baking powder work to break down some skin proteins, causing them to crisp and brown more efficiently, it also combines with turkey juices, forming microscopic bubbles that add surface area and crunch to the skin as it roasts.’” 

and later he PS’d:

“Cook’s Illustrated (Nov 2016, Roast Turkey recipe), also alludes to rubbing the skin with baking powder for more even browning and crisper skin, but I’ll be damned if I’ll pay them 50 bucks (non-refundable) for another year of their generally authoritarian and arbitrary cooking advice to find out more; as they don’t give access to the full recipe except to subscribers... though worst of all is their imperious notion that they’ve experimentally determined the BEST method for cooking whatever... Gee, I don’t know anyone with that kind of attitude in the kitchen, do you?”

Which is what my recipes say.
But Howard makes even my writings more fun.

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October 30, Tuesday
And so, Good Morning.

We’ve talked about being champion athletes and champion people, food shopping, and creating a recipe. Howard spoke on food science.

Have a good day, my friends.
See you soon.

Love

Dom