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Friday, 16 December 2011 20:13

Recession Chef: Eggs, Bacon and French Toast with pizzazz

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Sometimes I want to be fancy. Food is fun. I could just throw some beaten eggs in a pan until they're solid, toss some egg soaked bread on the grill and fry up some bacon but what fun is that? 

My daughter had been asking me for French Toast so I gave in today and mixed an egg, some flour, sugar, salt and milk together to slather onto Texas Toast. The eggs were totally French style done in a double boiler. I didn't have any morels or truffles so I just added a touch of vanilla to them. The Bacon was coated with cracked pepper. 

The fancy part comes with the preparation. I cut off the top of the egg with your typical $20 "cut a muffler pipe" knifeset by ginsu (I think they're called Master Chef now) serrated knife. I washed out the eggshell nicely and filled it with the French style egg custard. 

A strip of bacon pressed flat while fried worked nicely as the dipper utensil for the eggs. Overall this fancy breakfast didn't cost any more than the traditional "slap it on a plate" method but was more fun for sure. 

You don't have to go out to breakfast and spend a fortune for something with pizzazz. 

Food reviews are always subjective so should be taken with a grain of salt but while reminiscing about Paris today I checked the Yelp reviews of one of my favorite bistros in the 15th arrondissement. The reason I liked it is because they had not one but two excellent duck dishes on the menu. The first was Magret de Canard in an orange honey sauce and roasted potatoes. The second being duck pieces shaped in a cylinder over sweet potatoes. Both were wonderful. Anyone that knows duck will agree that you can't cook it to medium or it will best be used as a football. The best Magret is served pink (really red) all the way through and it's the best thing ever. If you look to the photo on the right of the very Magret de Canard that I speak of you'll notice the the meat is very pink ringed by the wonderful duck fat cap. THIS is how it should be cooked. I apologize for the photo but I took this when I didn't know anything about taking food photos. I also took a friend to this restaurant who said she couldn't stand duck so she ordered linguine. I gave her one bite of my Magret and she exclaimed "That's not duck, that's a steak". Au contraire, it's better than a steak....Which brings me to a Yelp review of said bistro where an Irish couple gave it one star. <bolding is mine>



"..Irish Tourist Here... This is a place to be definitely avoided if you wish to get value for money!!!! .. Asked for Duck and Steak to be cooked well done. Both orders were cooked close to rare. Spuds were coldish. When asking for a glass of water we got landed a 2 ltr bottle of water on the table and 2 glasses.. When dishes were sent back. Duck was re cooked in juices of the steak so duck tasted like steak. Also we were rudely told we are big eaters sending food back!!!. When questioning why our food was not cooked correctly, standing beside the kitchen I seen why its horrible and messy!! Plus service was extremely rude. I refused to pay and asked for a reduction in the bill due to the rudeness and lack of respect to paying tourists. I was told that's the way we do food over here. Sorry... Now please pay your bill... So if you would like some nice food and manners go to Place Cambronne. Or a lovely side street pizza shop.."

 

What's to be said about this? I've bolded quite a lot because there's a lot wrong here. First of all I won't make any cracks about Irish cuisine because anything I'd say could also be said of American cuisine and I'm American. I also don't think it needs to be said so I'll just say this, the French are really good at some things that the folks living in the Mayonnaise belt (former British colonies) just don't understand. So to start they asked for both their Duck and Steak to be cooked well done. You probably couldn't eat a duck well done without a chain saw and I can only imagine the French chef in the kitchen not even comprehending that someone has CHOSEN to make their food inedible so he cooked it the best he could and sent it out. They also asked for what sounds like tap water. If you ask for water in France you'll get a choice of still bottled water or sparkling (with gas) bottled water. I'm not sure what they ended up with but it was in fact a bottle of water. The secret phrase in France is "une carafe d'eau s'il vous plaît!" which will get you a carafe of chilled tap water. Whenever I ask for my carafe I get a surprised look from the waiter followed by a look of respect, like I was just let into the back room of a secret clubhouse. 

 

The last point I'd like to make is that these folks believed they had some sort of buying power because they were tourists with money. They very clearly don't understand the French. You could walk into a French bank with a million dollars in cash and they'd want references before they'd let you open an account. Money talks in America but only whispers in France. 

 

So here's a couple of thoughts and lessons to take away.

 

  • Don't go to another country to which you know nothing of their culture and tell their chefs how to cook their dishes. Especially don't go to France and tell French chefs how to cook French food. If you like your food having the flavor and texture of a football you will probably have to go back home to get it.
  • Don't assume that people in France will bow down to your almighty dollar and want to serve you anymore than if you walked into someone else's house with money in your wallet.
  • Treat France like you're visiting a friend with an exquisite house and you'll be fine. This means you will be treated with politeness and respect as long as you keep your feet off the coffee table.

 

I actually experienced this very same situation in this very same restaurant. An American family sat down at a table, spoke perfect American English to the French staff and expected them to understand everything they said (even though French, not English is the language of the land) and when they didn't bring what the American family had ordered they man became enraged and demanded they take it back. His exact words to his wife were "They had BETTER make us what we ordered!". I felt ashamed and the manager treated them so much better than they deserved. Had it been me I would have thrown them out.

 

So the moral of the story is that we should exert at least a little bit of effort to understand the culture and customs of the country that we're in so we don't make total asses of ourselves and in addition we may very well enjoy our stay more. Huh, there's a thought.

Thursday, 24 November 2011 09:44

Brown butter Pumpkin cake with cinnamon buttercream frosting

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Usually I can look at a recipe and have a pretty good idea whether it's worth the trouble or not. Sometimes I make a recipe that doesn't seem like a good idea just in case I'm wrong. On occasion I have been wrong.

One of my foodie friends on Google+ posted a recipe for Brown Butter Pumpkin cake with Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting and roasted marshmallow filling. My immediate thought was that there is a lot of adjectives in the name followed by "I bet that's way too rich". Sometimes I make recipes just because I like getting new ideas. This time was a mixture of reasons but partly because it was pretty.

I'd planned on making Pumpkin pots de Creme for Thanksgiving dessert which are a favorite but none of the stores had Munchkin pumpkins so I made this cake instead.

The instructions go something like this - brown a bunch of butter as if you were making a browned butter sage sauce. Then make a pumpkin cake with it spiced with cinnamon, ginger and allspice. Then roast marshmallows under the broiler, combine with marshmallow fluff, more sugar and more butter. Then make the Cinnamon Swiss Meringue Buttercream comprising of lots more butter, more sugar, egg whites, cinnamon and vanilla of course. In total this recipe uses 7.5 sticks of butter (almost two lbs), 3.5 cups of sugar, 16 marshmallows and half a pound of marshmallow fluff. What's amazing is the final product although over the top isn't as crazy as the ingredients sound.

Conclusion: I think if I adapted this cake into a two layer (one layer split or two full layers) with just a thin layer of buttercream frosting it would be more practical. You can beat the name and how wonderful it looks though.

Thursday, 17 November 2011 09:55

Automated install of CentOS 6 VM (64 bit)

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Note: updated for XCP 1.5b/1.6 and Xenserver 6.x.

Install Type

  • Non-interactive
  • Network boot
  • Commandline
  • Paravirtualized

Prerequisites

  • XCP/Xenserver
  • Access to Internet
  • Working DHCP server
  • Working DNS name resolution

Introduction

This tutorial was written in the spirit of my CentOS 6 virtual machine (64 bit) installation on Xen howto which was based on the CentOS 5 version of the same. In those tutorials I created a disk, downloaded a kernel, kickstart file plus a xen config file which installed CentOS using the kickstart file. This has proven very popular since you can't install a paravirtualized domain using an install disk. This has been a very nice installation howto because you don't have to download any install CD/DVDs and you could create VMs using nothing more than a commandline login. It's also very nice because it can be mirrored locally if you're doing a bunch of them just by rsyncing a CentOS mirror locally then downloading my files and editing them.

I've recently migrated a lot of my XEN systems to Xen Cloud Platform and it's a very different animal indeed. However, I still needed a system of creating CentOS Virtual Machines in that same manner. I didn't want to download a CentOS install DVD or need a graphical login to install the OS thus this tutorial was born.

It uses the very same CentOS 6 kickstart file from my site as the Xen tutorial. It also uses the very same CentOS 6 repositories on the Internet so in a lot aspects it IS the same tutorial crafted for XCP but will be a bit shorter.

 

Friday, 04 November 2011 17:43

KVM Howtos

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I don't generally use KVM so the Howto's here are old and probably obsolete.

 

Friday, 04 November 2011 17:43

VirtualBox Howtos

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I use VirtualBox almost every day but I haven't created a product around it in a very long time so the Howto's here will probably be very old until the time comes when I'm digging into it again.

Friday, 04 November 2011 03:41

Xenserver Howtos

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Xen Cloud Platform is the free/open community driven version of Citrix Xenserver.  I've moved all of my Xen Virtual Machines to Xen cloud Platform so any future tutorials will most likely be about XCP. I've found XCP to be a wonderful product but not necessarily an easy tool sometimes thus the tutorials you see below.

Citrix Xenserver has been opensourced and thus there's no need for Xen Cloud Platform any longer. Most of the tutorials here work on both but all future tutorials will be targeting Xenserver.

How to get started: Go to xenserver.org and download the latest ISO disk image of Xenserver and install it on a machine. It uses the whole machine as it's an appliance so beware. By the way I think this is the best design strategy. It's a good idea to let your Hypervisor/Cloud stack focus on what it's good at and not use it for playing World of Warcraft. ;-)

Expect a great deal more Howtos in the future. Feel free to request them as well. If it's within scope of what I'm doing I may create one just for you.

 These tutorials can also be found on the Xenapi Admin Project website and the XCP wiki.

 

 

Friday, 28 October 2011 16:02

Microwave Cassoulet brought to you by Betty Crocker

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This is not a joke! Well, it is sort of but I bet Betty Crocker didn't think so. My daughter checked out a Betty Crocker cookbook from the local library. She was showing me some recipes in it as normally I would not have even opened it. About halfway through there was an Easy Cassoulet recipe. Intrigued I looked it over. Seconds later my jaw dropped in disbelief. You, my faithful readers probably remember my Cassoulet article from the past. If not then go there now and read up on it, I'll wait for you. In that recipe (which is quite good) there are no less than 19 ingredients and start to finish it takes about 3 days to prepare spread out over one month. I never thought any meal could be worth that kind of labor and yet I've made it 4 times. Now my least favorite season - Fall, is welcomed open armed just because it gives me an excuse to break out the butcher knife and soak those great northern white beans until they're smooth as butter. Yes, I'm hooked.

I'm sure Betty Crocker they're doing their readers a great service having an Easy Cassoulet recipe because who wouldn't want to partake in this rustic southern French dish? The recipe is as follows.

  • 1 pound of Polish sausage
  • 1 can of great northern beans
  • 1 can of kidney beans
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1 can of tomato sauce
  • 3 medium carrots
  • 2 small onions
  • 2 tbs brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup of dry red wine or beef broth
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 2 cloves of garlic

 

In the interest of their consummate readers they've even included microwave directions *gag cough gag* as follows.

 

To Microwave: Place carrots and red wine in 3 qt microwavable casserole. Cover and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Place sausage on carrots. Mix remaining ingredients. Pour over top. Cover tightly and microwave on high 18 to 22 minutes, stirring after 12 minutes, until hot and bubbly.

 

Can we have a moment of silence to honor the death of our dear old friend? If you don't mind I'd like to say a few words. "Cassoulet, I'm sorry for what has become of you. I'm sorry for how little we've tried to understand your complexity and how we've attempted to make you into something you're not out of our own laziness and for the sake of convenience. But most of all I'm sorry that you had to go out this way, with such a loss of dignity, please forgive us - amen."

Polish sausage and 3 cans of beans? Are you on crack Betty Crocker? Betty Coker is more like it. What can they possibly think to accomplish by putting Polish sausages and 3 types of canned beans in a microwave dish and cooking it for 20 minutes? I'm not saying you have to spend three days cooking Cassoulet but there are some dishes that if you don't plan on cooking them right you should just leave them the hell alone! Or here's another idea, microwave your sausage and beans but call it microwaved sausage and beans - not Cassoulet.

I have other issues with it. I don't believe I'm actually giving it any time at all but dry red wine OR beef broth? Oh you don't have any dry red wine for your wine reduction to pour over that Chateaubriand? Just use beef broth, they taste about the same. Ack! I can't think of an instance where you'd substitute beef broth for red wine. I just can't. Speechless I may not be but flabbergasted I am.

 

Sunday, 23 October 2011 09:02

Livening up Macaroni Salad

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My mother has been bugging me about putting up my Macaroni Salad recipe so she can make it and you know what they say, if your mother tells you to do something you should listen - and share.

This is the first recipe in a series that's a result of my tackling each item of the standard American BBQ feast one at a time. I'm fairly happy with it so now I can move on to other things like BBQ beans or Potato salad. Considering the weather I probably won't finish them until next summer.

I'm not straying too far from the standard base of macaroni, mayonnaise, vinegar and some form of sweetener. In my rendition I swap sweetened condensed milk for some of the mayonnaise and the sweetener. I also add sweet peppers (bell or otherwise), red onion, carrot and celery.

As with a lot of cooking it's not so much the ingredients you choose but the balance they create and I really like this salad. I make it each Sunday and eat it for my lunch. Those of you who know me know that I don't put up recipes unless I'm satisfied and I rarely am so take this one serious. That does not mean however, that I won't still be playing with flavor balances in the future.

Without further ado here is the recipe - Macaroni Salad