Best Crack of the Campaign

This campaign has featured some incredible smack all around. The Democratic race has been especially bitter, as both Obama and Clinton are throwing everything and the kitchen sink at each other. But the new king of the hill has to be the Wall Street Journal, who today flew between the ropes and sucker punched the Democratic Party like you wouldn’t believe.

This weekend, the Democrats are meeting frantically to settle their nomination problems with Michigan and Florida. Those states jumped the primary system and tried to gain more significance by bumping their nomination elections earlier. Ironically, they would have been more important had they kept their place, which is how you know Michigan and Florida earned their reputations for blowing it. Clinton won both elections, but most people would agree that it’s only because Obama didn’t campaign there.

Anyways, here is the likely compromise:

If there is a compromise to be had, it appears likely to include some continued penalties–either halving the state’s delegations, or giving each delegate a half-vote.

And here is the Wall Street Journal kneeing the Democrats in the groin:

Far be it from us to get involved in this little spat, but it occurs to us that if you’re a Clinton supporter penning an angry email, you may want to mention that even slaves counted as three-fifths of a person.

I have to say that this is one of the best crackbacks I’ve seen in a long time.

Family Dinner recipe: Chicken Surf n’ Turf

This Sunday I’m planning another Family Dinner, which will be special because Aki is coming back to town. Fortunately, she’s been in London so expectations won’t be terribly high. The theme for this week could also be “starter French cooking”, because the meals are slightly French but neither the materials nor the techniques are terribly difficult for an American amateur. Other than that, the feature entrees are the chicken of land and sea.

Chicken Poached in Buttermilk

Yields: 4 servings

1 quart buttermilk
4 large sprigs fresh thyme
4 (7 to 8 ounces each) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, preferably pasture-raised
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Meyer lemon, or regular lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon crème fraîche
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 head frisée lettuce, trimmed, washed and dried well

Place the buttermilk and thyme in a casserole, preferably cast iron, that’s large enough to hold all of the chicken in a single flat layer without overlapping.

Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper. Arrange the breasts so they are covered in the buttermilk. Heat the chicken slowly over medium heat until the buttermilk is shimmering and almost simmering. It should not be boiling, but too hot to stick your finger in (about 170 degrees). Cook slowly, adjusting the heat as necessary.

Rotate the chicken and turn it over now and again so it cooks evenly until it is cooked through, about 15 minutes from the time it almost simmers. Chicken should be soft but have some resistance when pressed.

Remove the breasts from the buttermilk and pat dry with a paper towel. Set aside to rest.

Mix the lemon juice and crème fraiche in a small bowl until well combined. Add the oil and honey and mix vigorously.

Put frisée in a medium bowl, drizzle liberally with the lemon vinaigrette mixture, about 2 to 3 tablespoons, and toss to coat well. Adjust dressing to taste.

Slice chicken thinly and transfer each breast to a plate. Divide the salad evenly between the plates, arranging on top of each breast. Serve immediately.

Tuna L’Occidental

Yield: 10 servings

2 pounds yellowfin tuna, #1 grade or “sashimi-quality”
1 pound unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
10 shallots, peeled
3 cups canola oil
¼ pound mixed microgreens
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fleur de sel
Citrus marinade

Remove skin and any bloodline or fibrous sections of the tuna. Slice tuna into ¼-inch thick slices. Refrigerate until needed.

Slice the shallots into thin rings. Heat the canola oil, and gently fry shallots until golden brown and crispy. Drain on a paper towel and season with salt

Portion one layer of tuna into a circle, about 6 inches in diameter, on a metal tray. Season each piece with salt and pepper.

In a saucepan, heat one pound of butter, until brown, stirring constantly. (Important: The butter must remain hot; do not pull the butter back during the process. It must reach a high temperature to sear the tuna.)

When the butter is hot and brown, slowly pour it over the entire surface of the tuna. It should turn gray on contact. Do not let any of the butter solids get on the tuna. Drain tuna of any excess butter when done. (Important: Only do 3-4 portions at a time to ensure that the butter remains hot.)

Place the tuna into the center of the plate; be sure it is not dripping with butter.

Drizzle 1 1/2 tablespoons (to taste) of citrus marinade over the tuna. Season with a pinch of fleur de sel.

Dress the plate with microgreens and fried shallots.|

Citrus Marinade

Yield: 1 cup

1 orange
1 lemon
1 lime
½-inch ginger, peeled
1 whole shallot, peeled
1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
½ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup soy sauce
2 ounces white wine

Combine coriander seeds and wine in a small saucepan and simmer until all of the wine has evaporated.

Zest the citrus into a bowl, no pith.

Peel and segment the citrus, adding all the juice and the segments to the zest.

Thinly slice the ginger, shallots and garlic, and place in bowl with the citrus.

Add the coriander seeds and any liquid, balsamic vinegar and soy sauce.

Let everything marinate for about 24 hours. Strain and reserve the liquid.

Potato Puffs

Yield: 60 puffs

2 1/4 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
Salt
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons nonfat dry milk
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Vegetable oil, for frying

Put the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water. Add a large pinch of salt and bring to a boil.

Simmer over moderate heat until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes and return them to the saucepan. Cook for 1 minute over high heat, shaking the pan frequently to dry out the potatoes.Pass the potatoes through a ricer into a large bowl. Stir in the egg, butter, dry milk, cheese, flour and nutmeg; season with salt. Using floured hands, roll the potato mixture into 1-inch balls; you should have about 60.

Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1/2 inch of vegetable oil until shimmering. Working in batches of about 12, fry the potato balls over moderately high heat until they are browned on 3 sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels, season lightly with salt and transfer the potato balls to a large rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining balls.

When all of the puffs are fried, reheat them in the oven for about 10 minutes. Serve at once.

Chocolate Mousse

Yield: 6 servings


8 (1-ounce) squares semisweet baking chocolate, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup water, divided use

2 tablespoons butter

3 large egg yolks

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 1/4 cups heavy cream, whipped

In a microwave or double boiler, heat chocolate, 1/4 cup water and butter until the chocolate and butter are melted. Cool for 10 minutes.

In a small heavy saucepan, whisk egg yolks, sugar and remaining water. Cook and stir over low heat until mixture reaches 160*F (70*C), about 1 to 2 minutes.

Remove from the heat; whisk in chocolate mixture. Set saucepan in ice and stir until cooled, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Fold in whipped cream. Spoon into dessert dishes.

Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

Family Dinner 2008-5-26

Today was family dinner with the seafood themed recipes that I posted a couple days ago. It was actually a lot less trouble than I thought, although as usual I started way too late.

The hardest part was the dessert. Mixing chocolate is a lot of trouble, especially when you’re melting it from chips. I also made a slight mistake by stuffing the cakes with way too much chocolate in the middle, which ended up melting a good portion of the cake surrounding it. So really the whole thing turned out to be more of a bad creme brulee, with a stiff top to a very chocolate-y liquid underneath.

The miso soup was also a little bit of a pain, only because it required chopping so many vegetables. Thanks to Justin and Christie for being team players and helping me. It was a little scary because it looked like there were more veggies than water at first, but of course the vegetables shrank drastically when boiled and softened. It turned out incredibly well, especially the effect of putting raw salmon at the bottom of the bowl and letting the poured in hot soup cook it. That makes the fish really tasty and ensures a freshly cooked texture.

The bass was no problem at all. The reduction was a bit weird and I think I botched it a little. I would recommend that you double the number of halved grape tomatoes, and throw them in last so that they don’t cook very much. I noticed that the slightly crunchy tomatoes were much more pleasant than the soft ones, as a contrast to the texture of the fish. Still, I was quite pleased with the results.

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Guests: Justin
Mystery Guest: Christie
Materials cost: $70

Family Dinner recipes: Seafood theme

I’ve decided that I’d like to mix up Family Dinner and make some finer offerings. That means taking more risks and cooking foods that are a bit more difficult to make. I decided to start by taking a swing at seafood and trying some rarities that few people have ever eaten before.

This week’s meal is also the first three-course meal I’ve tried. Normally Family Dinner is just a main course and maybe some salad or soup. But because this is seafood, I want to try making a little bit more. The serving sizes probably won’t be enormous anyways. Note that I’m also trying to incorporate a lot more vegetables. I’m trying to eat a bit healthier. Also note the limited cooking time, which is nice and convenient. On the menu is salmon miso soup, sea bass in lemon sauce, and king crab legs (no recipe, it’s just boiling).

Dessert is molten chocolate cake. So much for eating healthy.

Salmon Miso Soup

Yield: 4 servings (8 cups)
Preparation time: 7 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes

1 waxy potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 shiitake mushroom, stemmed and cut into 1/4-inch slice
1 small onion, halved and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 small carrot, peeled and finely diced
1/8 head Napa cabbage, bottom trimmed, cut into 1/2 inch slices (about 3 cups)
1/2-3/4 cup white miso
2 to 3 tablespoons sake
8 oz skinless, boneless salmon filet, rinsed and cut into bite sizes
1 scallion, thinly sliced on the bias

• Place the potatoes, mushrooms, onions, carrots, cabbage and miso into a large pot and add 6 cups of cold water. Add the sake and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the miso.

• Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the potatos and carrots are tender, 6 to 8 more minutes.

• Divide salmon between four bowls, ladle the hot soup and vegetables over the salmon (the heat of the soup cooks the salmon) and top with chopped scallions. Serve immediately.

Sea Bass With Lemon Sauce

Yield: 4 servings
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: about 10 minutes

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 (4 to 5 ounces each) boneless black sea bass filets, skin on
1 clove garlic, smashed and peeled
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
16 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved, large ones cut into quarters
1 1/2 tablespoons capers, drained
2 tablespoons sake
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons butter

• Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over high heat. While the pan is heating, rub the fish with garlic, then season with salt and pepper on both sides.

• Place filets into the pan, skin side down, being careful not to crowd the pan. Cook until the skin is golden on the first side and the fish has turned opaque halfway up the sides. Turn the filets over and continue to cook until lightly golden on the second side. Transfer fish to a plate and keep warm.

• Add the tomatoes and capers to the pan and cook for 30 seconds. Add the sake, soy sauce and lemon juice and stir to combine. Cook until reduced. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter.

• To serve, divide the fish, skin side up, between four warm plates and spoon the tomatoes, capers and sauce on top. Serve immediately.

Molten Chocolate Cake Served With Cilantro Crème Chantilly

Yield: 6 servings
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

For the cake:
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cut into small pieces, plus extra for greasing the ramekins
1 cup plus 6 teaspoons (about 6 ounces) finely chopped bittersweet chocolate, divided
4 eggs
5 egg yolks
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup flour
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

• Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease six 8-ounce ramekins with some butter, arrange on a baking sheet, and set aside.

• Melt the remaining butter and 1 cup of the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, about 3 minutes. Whisk until smooth, remove from heat and set aside.

• Beat the eggs, egg yolks and granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl on high speed until very thick and fluffy and peaks form when the beater is removed from the mixture, 8 to 10 minutes. Fold the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. Sift the flour over the batter and gently fold in.

• Spoon the batter into ramekins until half full. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of chopped chocolate into each ramekin, then top each evenly with the remaining batter. Bake for 15 minutes (cakes will still be slightly jiggly) and then let cool slightly.

For the crème:
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 teaspoon confectioners’ sugar

• While the cakes are baking, whip the cream in a medium bowl on high speed until soft peaks just form, about 1 minute. Add the cilantro and confectioners’ sugar and stir gently until just combined. Transfer to a serving bowl and chill until ready to serve.

• To serve: Dust cakes with confectioners’ sugar and put each ramekin on a separate plate. Serve with the bowl of crème.

Chi-town v NoCal

Last weekend I took a trip to Chicago where I rubbed elbows with quite a diverse group of fellows. On the one hand was my brother’s community, people on the verge of graduating from medical school or moving through the ranks of their respective majors. On the other hand was Jeff’s high school friends, a collection of ordinary guys who stuck pretty close to home. But talking to them revealed quite a lot of common threads in Chicago culture, something that I think is very interesting when contrasted with the culture of the Bay Area.

First off, let me say that the culture of Chicago is brilliant but crazy. It’s a place where people try everything and has built itself up on sheer imagination. And as the tour guide on the architecture tour said, Chicago’s attitude towards problems is that you find whatever obstacles are in your way and go right through them. As you might imagine, such an attitude leads to all kinds of examples of blowing it. The Board of Trade has a giant statue of Ceres (the Greek goddess of the grain), but the architect decided not to finish the face because nobody could ever build something taller than the BoT and notice that the statue was missing a face. Of course, today the Board of Trade is surrounded by buildings taller than it, so everyone can see the statue now. But don’t laugh too hard because Chicago has produced more Nobel Laureates than any other city in the world. Their architecture is absolutely incredible as well, and true to form, Chicago architects have had a hand in every building taller than the Sears Tower. Chicago’s sons are a proud lot who will take on any challenge.

Here are my pros and cons of the people living in Chicago:

+bright attitudes. As they say, you’ll never meet people more thrilled with life than Chicagoans.

+nice. Friendship and love is unconditional and people don’t segregate by level of success

+mature. Almost everybody in Chicago either had a very clear picture of their future and what they wanted from it, or they had accepted their poverty and were working. Here’s an interesting point: there was a clear correlation among the people I met in Chicago between the clarity of goals and success. Those who had the most tangible and focused answer to the question “what do you want to do?” were far and away more successful academically and financially. Um, ignore my last Xanga post about Free Trash Day where adults were rooting through each other’s piles of garbage.

+smack. The people of Chicago really love their city. Unlike Los Angeles, which is so abused that I’m really like a whipped dog when someone cracks my home town, Chicagoans will fight you if you try to say anything bad about their city. They will also fight you if you have anything good to say about Indiana or Wisconsin.

+food. My God, people in Chicago eat better and more voraciously than anybody I’ve ever seen. Which leads to:

-fat. I did not meet or see a single person over the age of 30 who I would even hesitate to label “fat”. Exercise didn’t seem to be a big priority. People saw me running and looked around for the donut that I had to be chasing.

-transportation. I complain a lot about BART and the bus in the Bay Area, but Chicago’s mass transit is a flaming abortion covered in fecal matter by comparison. Seriously, their ticket machines are so poorly designed that I honestly think they do have feces in them. And you avoid the mass transit only to be raped by angry foreigners driving the cabs or driving yourself and paying the highest gas prices in the country.

-manual labor. Cover your eyes if you’re afraid of racism, but look, eastern Europeans are a more angry and less hard-working breed of people than Mexicans. Say what you will about Mexicans stealing all the jobs, they keep their jobs because they shut up and work hard at crappy jobs. Eastern Europeans who do crappy work will give you the stink-eye and they’ll delight in screaming NO in your face to whatever request you have.

+-mean. They don’t have as many bums in Chicago as California, but the bums there have a healthy does of respect for the natives. One bum actually flinched a little when a bond trader walked by him. The old lady who served us at White Castle was one of the meaner people I’ve ever met in my life. Good times, good times.

Compare that to San Francisco:

+high standards. I’ve met a lot of extremely accomplished and well educated people in the Bay Area. The standard for educating yourself and what you should know is definitely much higher than in Chicago.

+diversity. On top of being accomplished, people in the Bay Area come from all walks of life and try all sorts of different things. For their brilliance and craziness, the people of Chicago all seemed cut out of the same cloth, which led to a lot of people being sort of left out in terms of interests. No matter what insanity you enjoy, you will find a community of people who share your interest in the Bay Area. While Berkeley doesn’t have as many Nobel Prize winners as the University of Chicago, the sons of California have won Nobel Prizes nearly evenly in every category. 80% of Chicago’s Nobel Prizes are in economics and physics.

+genuine. The thing about being very nice and polite is that a lot of it is insincere. One good thing about the Bay Area is that if people don’t like you, they’ll let you know pretty quick.

+motivation. When they put their mind to something, Bay Area people can achieve some pretty impressive things too. The Campanile at Berkeley and the Golden Gate Bridge are good examples. Of course, that can be a problem if it starts with:

-drifters. Unlike Chicago where people are very clear about their goals, there are a lot of people in the Bay Area who are sort of drifting about and expecting some giant beam of light from the sky to tell them what to do with themselves. The idea of “taking a break” and “thinking about what I want to do” are acceptable and even lauded in the Bay Area, but everywhere else those are answers that get others to laugh in your face, especially if it is in lieu of getting a job.

-immaturity. A lot of people in the Bay Area are spoiled from the nice weather, so they invent problems to have. The only people on my facebook who complain about being tired are from the Bay Area. I know bond traders, investment bankers, med school students, budding lawyers, and other people who work 80 hour weeks, yet it is the Berkeley undergrad with 13 units who complains about losing sleep. I don’t know what disgusts me more – that it takes an all-nighter to finish 10 hours of work assigned three weeks ago or the fact that Berkeley undergrads choose to sleep at 3 AM then wonder why they’re tired at 830 AM. I’m convinced the drifting is also a product of being immature, wanting to stay a little kid.

-dogmatic. Like it or not, the Bay Area isn’t quite the mecca of free thought that it likes to think of itself. In fact, most of the “free thinking” that I see going on is stuff that nobody else thinks about because it’s too stupid. The Bay Area isn’t drifting to gay marriage and banning cars because of the miracle of free discussion, it’s because people have decided that’s what they want and now they’re just trying to ram those round pieces into whatever square hole anybody else thinks. The proportion of people in the Bay Area who are just waiting to talk rather than listening and processing information is infinite.

+-tolerance. One thing that is true about the Bay Area is that it is extremely tolerant. You can basically do whatever you want and nobody will say anything to you. It’s always funny to me when Bay Area natives complain that you can’t just stand on a crowded New York City street corner and cross when the light turns like you can in San Francisco, unless you want to hear the sound of furious honking and enjoy being called every variant of the F word. It’s good because you can always find acceptance somewhere, but it’s bad if you’re trying to get somewhere or accomplish something.