Saturday, July 28, 2012

Big Newses

Well now, there's been a bit going on around here lately.  So much, I haven't been able to share it with you.  So now an odd collection of exciting developments in my little world.  And I'm saving the excitingest for last, so there.

First off, just yesterday Miss Chef facilitated our entrance into the 21st century.  Doing an online MBA program was becoming frustrating for her, since our DSL hookup made the videos she has to watch pause and load way too frequently.  She finally put her foot down a couple of weeks ago and decided we were going to upgrade to broadband.  I'm pretty stingy, and wasn't too excited at the extra outlay, but I have really been wishing we had a better connection.  So it didn't take a lot of talking to get my ok on the project.

Now not only do pages load faster, but I can watch your videos without stopping them and finding something else to do for awhile.  And I can even upload my own videos without throwing everything into a loop!  Here's a short one from last summer's Big Trip--inside the Louvre.  (Points if you can name the work of art, bonus points for doing it in French, lol.)

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Wow, that loaded about 10 times faster than before.  Watch out, I've got a whole new medium to play with now!


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Speaking of last year's Big Trip, my second exciting news has its origins that far back.  A little background: I have a cousin on my mom's side who lives in Chapel Hill, only a couple of hours from Charlotte.  Lolette's dad was French, and also an artist, so you can imagine I was eager to share my photos from France with her when I visited last winter.  She got really excited about this one when she saw it:




This was taken out the window of our rental apartment in Paris, as a thunderstorm approached right at sunset.  Turns out Lolette was working on a series focusing on skylines and rooftops, and this fit right into her theme.  Well, just this week, she emailed me to let me know she'd finished the series and was photographing it to catalog it.  And so she emailed me a copy yesterday.

Check it out, whaddya think?



I'm interested to see the rest of the series, to see what commonalities she carries from one piece to the next.  But I'm just very flattered to have been able to inspire an artist!  She hasn't posted this series yet, but if you're curious here's a link to her website: Lolette Guthrie.

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So I've saved the best bit of news for last, and I don't even have any photographs to mark it.  I guess I'll just have to announce flat out that Miss Chef is actually quitting one of her jobs!

Yep, she's finally had to acknowledge that two jobs and an MBA were just a little more than she cared to handle.  She sat down with Chef Adam about a month ago, and told him the time had finally come for her to leave.  He's always known she'd leave eventually, and he had noticed that she'd become burned-out and distracted.  So as it turns out, they had come to a mutual decision separately--he'd actually been thinking about looking for a replacement (knowing full well he can never find one!).

Miss Chef told him she'd get him through Restaurant Week, and would be happy to help with any big events, and I'm sure he'll take her up on it.  So her last day at the restaurant will be August 11th, and then she'll finally be able to focus on her teaching and coursework.  Still, I'm glad she's probably going to step back into his kitchen to help him out once in a while, because I really like Adam and the restaurant family, and would miss them if we had no more ties there.

The important thing is, I'm really looking forward to having Miss Chef around just a little bit more.  Of course, I'm now teaching two nights a week...and there's always the demonstrations Miss Chef's signed up for at the farmers' market, and her commitment to help out another chef uptown during all the hullabaloo of the Democratic National Convention in September...so don't think it's all gonna be 9 to 5 from here on out.

Still, if we can just have our Saturdays together, it will be wonderful.

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Ok, here's another video of Rosie, that I shot last October.  Just because I can.


video

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Why We Love Our Farmers' Market / Corn Roast



A local tv station did a story about some vendors trying to pull a fast one with the "local" tag.  The story begins at the Matthews Community Farmers Market, where Miss Chef and I shop and volunteer.  In fact, you can even see Miss Chef in the background when they introduce Pauline Wood, the market manager.  (Miss Chef's wearing a kerchief and, I guess, writing a check or something.  We didn't even know she was on tv, since we don't watch it...I just found out about this story at the market this morning and watched it online this afternoon!)

How do you know it's really local?


The rest of this post is my report on today's big event at the Matthews market: the annual corn roast.

Matthews Community Farmers' Market is supposed to have a corn roast every July.  Unfortunately, all but one year since we've moved here, it had to be canceled due to lack of...corn (climate change, anyone?).  As a result, this year was my first chance to enjoy the event, and it's about ding-dang time!  Growing up in Ohio, with corn in my backyard and on every farmstand in the county, I developed a passion for fresh, tender corn on the cob.

Chef Joe is the traditional Roaster of the Corn, and he asked Miss Chef to be his Assistant Roaster.  Since I knew I'd be there the duration of the event, I emailed Pauline and offered to volunteer.  (Our attendance at the market has become irregular, so we're no longer on the official volunteer list.)

She asked me if I could be there at 7:30 to help shuck the corn.  Heck yeah, I love shucking corn!  I know, I'm not quite normal.

When we arrived, the grill was cold, but the corn was waiting.



There was more, but this was enough to get us started...I think I heard someone say we started with 180 ears.  Three of us started shucking, then another couple of volunteers showed up, and a couple of what I affectionately call Market Kids...so before you knew it, we had lots of hands at work!



We filled two hip-high garbage cans with husks.  The funny thing was the farmers were all asking us if they could have the husks!  Pigs, chickens, compost...they are a valuable commodity.  We even set the silks aside for a vendor who makes soaps.  Apparently the silica in them is good for the skin.  It made me very happy to see everything being recycled back into the market.

It seemed like no time before the ears were shucked and the grill was just about ready.  Miss Chef and Chef Joe loaded up the grates...


...while the knowledgeable ones sat patiently waiting.  These are all Market Kids...the next generation of farmers.



It took awhile for the first line to form, but there was a steady business for the next three hours. Customers paid $2 an ear, and it was garnished with one of Chef Joe's special butters: plain, herb, sun-dried tomato, chili-lime or truffle.



Everywhere you looked, people were gnawing on ears of corn, with looks of pleased amazement.  "This is delicious!" we heard, over and over.  'Cause it was.

When I say "everyone," yeah, I mean everyone.  Even the vendors found time to stop by for an ear or two.



In case you're wondering, I had two--herb butter and sun-dried tomato, which was a great, fun flavor.  I hear the truffle butter was pretty dang good, too.

As the supply of corn began to dwindle, I noticed Chef Joe had somehow procured a few steaks from Baucom's Best.   When the last four ears were sold, the next thing I knew, the steaks were on the grill--followed quickly by some squash Miss Chef bought from Hinson farm, which Chef Joe seasoned with some of the leftover butter.



He somehow talked someone out of a few eggs, for that extra-special something...



With some of the overdone corn, a little focaccia from Chef Charles and a fresh tomato, we suddenly had a picnic on our hands!



The market was tearing down and packing up all around us as we stood around the table sharing a true community meal.  Any of the volunteers or farmers who stopped by were offered a bite or two.  Miss Chef even ran a forkful of steak over to the beef farmer who'd raised it, as he was ready to drive off in his truck!

And that's why they call it a Community Farmers Market.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Miss Chef is Crazy

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Country road on the way to Baucom’s Best Farm several weeks back.

 

I have a feeling if I go back through my archives, I’ll find at least one other blog entry with this title.  But no matter, reviewing material only helps drive the point home.

I just have to share Miss Chef’s schedule this weekend.  Part of the problem is that it’s the beginning of Queen’s Feast, Charlotte’s biannual restaurant week.  I’ve posted a summary of the experience here, if you care to review for this review (skip to after the 3rd picture).

Ok, so Miss Chef’s crazy schedule started Thursday:

Thursday:

7:30 am – 2 pm: Teach / serve at the school-run restaurant

2pm – 5 pm: wait for a delivery from a farmer who never came.  Miss out on the chance for a nap at home.

6 pm – 2-something am: Sit through the three recent Batman movies back-to-back in the company of two students and about 40 other nutcases rabid fans.  (Also, be very blessed that you did not do this in Aurora Colorado.  My blood ran cold when I heard the news this morning, even though Miss Chef lay five feet away from me, snoring her little heart out.)

Friday:

3 am – 7 am: sleep

8 am – 2 pm: Drive two hours to Asheville to pig up pork belly from Hickory Nut Gap Farm (see note above re: unreliable local farms), return to school, store, change, go to other restaurant.

2:18 pm: Call your worried spouse to assure her you did not fall asleep on the highway

2 pm – ??midnight??: Work.  50-some on the books when you walk in, more guaranteed to show up.

Saturday

??? – 6:30 am: Sleep.

7:30 am – ??noon??: Assist Chef Bonaparte with the Matthews Community Farmers Market annual Corn Roast.  (I will also be there, shucking my little heart out.  Maybe I’ll get some free corn, who knows?)

2 pm – ??midnight??: Work.  Probably even busier than Friday night

Sunday

Recover.  Homework.  Appreciate your wife not expecting a whole lot from this one day off you have together.  Understand this offer is only good during Queen’s Feast, at which point re-negotations will be scheduled.

 

And now…remember that beer?  No, we haven’t tasted it yet.  But I did come up with this:

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I think I’ve been influenced by Jenna Woginrich at Cold Antler Farm!  But Miss Chef likes it, which is all I was looking for.  Then again…do I really want to depend on the opinion of a crazy woman??

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wort Moves Out

Ok, here it is—the beer post!

You hopefully remember when I introduced you to Wort, whom Miss Chef had created and installed in this comfy, er, plastic bucket.

 

For those who are unfamiliar, wort is what you call the first step in brewing beer.  It involves heating malt and hops, then adding yeast (and probably some other stuff) to start fermentation.  Wort was scheduled to brew two weeks in here.  Since Miss Chef is a fairly high-level procrastinator, he got an extra week.  No biggie; Wort’s pretty easy-going at this stage.

The next step is to move Wort out from his low-rent plastic bucket into higher-class bottles.  (Miss Chef has borrowed most of this equipment from a friend who’s brewed several of her own batches.  That includes some of the bottles, as you’ll see.  We also saved some from our grill-warming party, thus some unrelated labeling.)

The first, and probably most important step is sterilization.  Everything that will touch the beer gets a two-minute soak in iodine water.

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Next is the great unveiling…how does Wort look now?

beer 07 (1)

 

Um, well…not too bad, actually.  We were really impressed when we stuck our noses over the bucket and smelled beer!  The scummy looking stuff is from the hops, which Miss Chef didn’t realize she should have strained out before fermentation.  It probably won’t hurt it, other than maybe making it more “hoppy.”  But it did add a step here of straining the hops out before bottling.  The other step here is to add some sugar, for additional fermentation that will create that bubbly carbonation we expect in our beer.

The bottling itself is pretty straightforward: attach a tube to the bucket and flip the spigot.

beer 07 (03)

 

What you can’t see in this picture is all the beer that overflowed and spattered on the floor.  Miss Chef soon realized a second bucket below would make things a lot less messy, but not before Rosie got a sampling of Wort’s good character.

Speaking of characters, Miss Chef also borrowed this funky-looking guy to seal the caps on the bottles.

beer 07 (11)

(Doesn’t it look like an “Oh no!” face??)

You place this straight on top of the capped bottle, then pull the two levers down.  It takes a little elbow grease, but it’s not too hard.

And voilĂ !  Miss Chef’s first case of beer!

beer 07 (12)

 

Does it look yummy?

beer 07 (3b)

 

How about now?

beer 07 (6b)

 

What, you didn’t think we threw all the overflow in that bucket down the drain, did you?  Ok, well it tastes really, really bitter right now.  It needs at least two more weeks for the final fermentation, and the longer it ferments, the more those bitter hops will mellow.  Already, behind that biting bitterness, there’s a lot of flavor.  So it should be interesting to see how it tastes in a couple of weeks, and beyond.

On the other hand, Miss Chef has mentioned more than once that, if you really want to, you can try it after only one week.  Heck, with over two cases of beer, we can try one every week from now ‘til the end of the year!

Unless you all show up on our doorstep, looking for a taste…then we might have to start another batch.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Glamour Session 3

During our staycation the week before last, I grabbed a few minutes to play with one of the daylilies that Miss Chef and I planted a few years ago.  They ended up in an out-of-the-way spot, so I thought it appropriate to give them a chance in the spotlight.

Two very similar pictures, because I couldn’t pick a favorite. :)


glamour 07 (1)




glamour 07 (2)

To see my inspiration, click here.
To see Session One and my setup, click here.
To see Session Two, click here.


Stay tuned; Miss Chef is bottling her first batch of beer as I write this.  I’ll have an update tomorrow!

Correction: I wasn't thinking.  Miss Chef is teaching late tonight, and has the camera holding all the beer-bottling pics with her.  Tomorrow night I'm teaching.  So...maybe Wednesday?

Here's a cool sunset picture from a few weeks ago, to tide you over.


(It's not straight out of camera; I manipulated brightness, contrast and intensity.)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

(Sorta) Wordless Wednesday: Making Ravioli

Not really much to do with the US’s Independence Day, unless you call it celebrating the crazy mix of cultures that makes us what we are.  This was brought about by leftover smoked chicken and the arrival of Miss Chef’s new toy: a ravioli form.

Let the pasta-ing begin.

Mix

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pasta 07 (0)

 

pasta 07 (2)

 

Roll.

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Make sure it fits!

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Cover.

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Press.

pasta 07 (7)

 

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Fill. (chicken, ricotta, eggs, herbs, salt & pepper)

pasta 07 (11)

 

Egg wash (acts as glue).

pasta 07 (13)

 

Cover with another sheet, roll to seal and cut (sort of).

pasta 07 (14)

 

Voila!

pasta 07 (17)

 

Lunch.

pasta 07 (18)

 

Leftovers

pasta 07 (19)

By the way, I’ve just fallen in love with pasta dough.  It is way easier to handle than pie or biscuit dough.  No worries about over-handling, keeping it cold or adding too much flour.  I highly recommend it if you want to play in the kitchen.  We just got the recipe off the bag of pasta flour (found in your local grocery store).  Miss Chef felt it was too wet, so here’s another one from this month’s Saveur:

1 cup regular flour, 1/2 cup semolina flour, 2 eggs (lightly beaten before adding)

That’s it!  Mix, knead 10 minutes, cover with plastic wrap and rest 30 minutes.  Then roll it out and go.  Buon appetito!