mysticonnie's blog

Megalomania continues...
Cheese Diaries
a Conspiracy of 2
Muffin Top

Friday, October 31, 2003

I'm not gonna comment on the feud, or the trial, but I have to say, as much as I dislike Gary Payton, ball hog that he is, I hate, hate, hate seeing the Mailman in my beloved yellow uniform. I hate him more than his little bitch, hot-pants-Stockton, I hate him more than Pippen... okay, maybe I don't hate him more than Ostertag or Rodman (at least Jerry West had the good sense to get rid of him when he did), but that's really not saying much.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Friday Five

1. What was your first Halloween costume?

I can't really remember... I know I liked to run around in my Wonder Woman Underoos when I was 3, but I'm not sure that counts. The first one I really remember is Princess Leia. My brother was Luke Skywalker.

2. What was your best costume and why?

Gotta say, Chun Li. I had the dress, the boots and the gauntlets.

3. Did you ever play a trick on someone who didn't give you a treat?

No. That's mean.

4. Do you have any Halloween traditions? (ie: Family pumpkin carving, special dinner before trick or treating, etc.)

Nothing out of the ordinary - pumpkin carving, handing out candy. Oh yeah, and the ritual goat sacrifices.

5. Share your favorite scary story...real or legend!

There once was this movie called Gigli...

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

"Connie?" piped Ona's voice from my speakerphone. "Uhhh, did you call the meat store?"
"Ooooh, yes!" I picked up the receiver. Tiffany's head swiveled around. I recognized that expression. The "what is she doing this time??" expression.
Which was precisely what I was thinking twenty-four hours later as I left Joe Scalise's and Sons butcher and deli, clutching a volleyball-sized package. It was more like the size (and shape) of a human head, but I preferred not to think of it that way. What was I doing, exactly? There was something vaguely unholy about purchasing something so big at the butcher's for a mere two dollars. Actually, it really was unholy. The day before, Scalise's had called to inform me that my order of caul fat had come in. Caul fat sits upon the kidneys of a pig. It is definitely not kosher. Once rendered, it is known as leaf lard, and it is widely considered among most culinary aficionados, when combined with butter, as the best form of shortening to produce tender, flaky pie crusts.
I had read Elmer Grossman's quest for leaf lard in Saveur magazine several months earlier, and mentally shelved it amongst my ideas for culinary experimentation. Since the weather has started to cool off, I had begun spend more time in my galley of a kitchen baking. My recent fascination with raw vs. pasteurized dairy led me to produce pastry doughs with raw butter. Although the raw butter was extremely flavorful, its crumbly texture was unacceptable for the pate feuillete (puff pastry) I was trying to perfect (no malleability whatsoever). Its crumbly character however would make a good pate brisee (pie crust) for my tarte tatin. After the second attempt, it produced a flaky, sweet and delicious, albeit temperamental crust. However, the raw butter was too temperamental, expensive and difficult to procure for use on a regular basis. When Anne, who has never failed to produce delicious tarts and pastries, began to tinker with using rendered duck fat in her piecrust, the Saveur article came to mind. Mr. Grossman, after several obstacles, obtained his own caul fat, and rendered it to produce leaf lard. Inspired by Anne's creativity, I managed to get ahold of the aforementioned article, and called my local butcher, Scalise's, on a whim. Despite Mr. Grossman's difficulties, Scalise's managed to fill my order on the same day.
After brunching on homemade beignets, goat cheese and mimosas (breakfast of champions!), I delved into my newly purchased (for 50 cents! from a yard sale!) copy of Larousse Gastronomique, and cross-referenced it with the Saveur article. Both recipes were essentially the same. They seemed fairly simple - you cut the fat up into dice-sized 1-inch cubes, place it in a heavy pot on low heat, with a quarter cup of water per pound. The water, I supposed, would prevent the solids in the fat from burning (and eventually going rancid, not to mention the carcinogens) as it renders.
Feeling brave, I unwrapped the package on my counter. There it lay, in compressed milky pink folds, approximately four pounds of caul fat. I took a deep breath, unsheathed my 8-inch Global chef's knife, and sank it through the middle. I couldn't help but think of Bill the Butcher's line from Gangs of New York. "The flesh that is closest to that of a man is that of a pig," or something like that. The resemblance in both size and shape of this flesh colored mass to a human head did not ease my trepidation. But the ease and precision in which my treasured blade cleaved through the layers turned my initial distaste into fascination. Cutting the fat though, into cubes, was a whole other story. Caul fat is layers and layers of spiderweb like netting, and as I cut it, the slices that were to become cubes fell apart in stringy shreds. So much for dice-sized cubes. It didn't really matter though, since these bits of fat were going to be melted down anyways. (I supposed if you really want cubes, you could freeze the fat briefly so it holds up.) I chopped up the remaining fat into my 3.5 quart All-Clad Master Chef pot, and set it on low, with one cup of water. Fifteen minutes later, a happy gray mass of fat, juices and oils was bubbling away on my stove. To keep the fat from becoming a tangled and matted lump when I stirred, I lifted the longest "strings" from the pot with a wooden spoon and trimmed them with a pair of kitchen shears. After about two hours, the rendering was complete. I drained the solids, which were now cracklins, through a wire mesh strainer and a cheesecloth. Then, I filtered the strained oil through a coffee filter and poured it into a loaf pan lined with wax paper. After chilling it overnight, I cut the now snowy-white hardened fat (my heart is pounding away as I type) into half-cup sticks, and wrapped them with wax paper.
Now I'm left with about two cups of cracklins (to be used in biscuits, cornbread, etc.), an All-Clad pot crusted with pork fat solids, and a house with the unmistakable stench of carnitas. But I have 8 sticks of lard... let the pie making begin!

Friday, October 17, 2003

Shall I? Or shall I not? Hell, it'll make me post more. I guess I'm starting a new tradition, so here goes:

the Friday 5...

1. Name five things in your refrigerator.

De Loach Pinot Gris and Chardonnay
raw butter
a domestic Mozzarella Di Bufala purchased from Cowgirl Creamery
orange juice
pie crust dough

2. Name five things in your freezer.

Muscovy duck breast
Vanilla Beans
Homemade blue cheese ice cream with major freezer burn
about 5 different kinds of vodka

3. Name five things under your kitchen sink.

swiffer wipes
grocery bags

4. Name five things around your computer.

pair o' 8 lb dumbbells
my preciousssssss Orlando Bloom/Jude Law snowglobe
a pair of painted wooden korean doll
marble stamp engraved with my chinese name
Kodama charm from Mononoke Hime

5. Name five things in your medicine cabinet.

kiehl's creme with silk groom
fresh milk-milk lotion
glide floss
contact lens solution
Mach 3 razor

Saturday, October 11, 2003

Went to a shooting range today. I have ambivalent feelings about handguns. For a long time, I really disliked them, and there was a time when I would have refused to even touch one. Sometimes, I think they should be outlawed, but I know that doing so won't reduce handgun violence in this country. When I got to know our friends who were taking us out, I realized that there were responsible handgun owners out there, although I can't help but suspect that many of them aren't as resposible. I figured that learning to load, fire and unload a weapon, as well as the proper stance and positioning would demystify some of the stigma, and that it would be practical knowledge to have. I knew that our friends would be the best people to teach this sort of thing.

It was really nervewracking to handle the weapons at first. I kept wanting to be really gentle with them, for fear of something going wrong, even though they weren't loaded with live rounds. As I figured out fairly quickly, you've got to be pretty firm with them, but I still had a constant fear that I might accidently pull the trigger. After a fairly in-depth training session at the house, I felt comfortable enough to fire the weapons at the range. However, every time a gun went off in the booth next to me, I had to suppress myself from jumping. That "click" and the explosion is also pretty jarring. I started with a .22 revolver, went to a .22 semi, plunged into a .45 ("hot damn!" was my reaction), then a .45 semi. I also tried a .38, which I liked the least, then finished the session with a .44 magnum. I wasn't able to try the .357 - it jammed, so it was retired for the afternoon... oh, in case it's not apparent, our friend has a *thing* for guns. (When we arrived at the range, the rangemaster, upon perusing his collection, remarked that he could "start a gun store on his own.") I didn't get that sort of rush, or feeling of power that many speak of when handling a gun. It was mostly, "Holy shit! That thing's explosive!" and "Ow! My hand!", especially when handling the 44 (my arm is still aching... firing a weapon like the 44 would not be good for someone with carpal tunnel). Strange to think that something so small could do so much damage to another human being. It was a good educational experience, though and I'll admit that it was fun (though I could attribute it to the company). I might even go to a range again. But I'm still certain that I never want to own a handgun, and it wouldn't bother me if they were outlawed.

What happens when a fifth grade teacher plays a selection of Radiohead tunes for her students? Read all about it here. BTW, Paranoid Android may be one of the best songs ever.

Friday, October 10, 2003

I'm in complete and total utter denial. To me, it's still 1999, and we're still riding the wave of the dot com boom (is it too late to buy stock in Pfizer?). The Clintons are still in the White House, and the idea that the Terminator would be governor is scoffed at. The premiere of the new season of X-Files, with Mulder is this Sunday, and there's a new Buffy this Tuesday. Reality TV is a ridiculous idea, and Lord of the Rings is still filming. Sigh. At least he can't be president, although with the way things are going, that amendment will be changed.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Predictably, the ROTK trailer has been running on a loop in my home. See it for yourself. Need I say more? All right, I will!
(spoiler space)

Legolas in a hoodie! The Nazgul attacking Minas Tirith! A brief shot of Shelob! Eowyn as Dernhelm in her armor! and... and...and... (okay, taking deep breath) Apparently, Arwen will send Elrond to deliver to Aragorn the Narsil reforged instead of her standard (a banner)... which makes sense. In the books, he receives the Narsil after the Council of Elrond, but I guess Peter Jackson didn't want to include Elrohir and Elladan, the sons of Elrond, who actually deliver the standard, along with the Rangers. I wonder, will Elrond fight in any of the battles? Will the Rangers make an appearance? Or the Eagles? They don't appear in this new trailer, nor are there scenes that would appear to be the scouring of the shire... okay, it's late. I'm not thinking clearly. Time for bed.