Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Until further notice

Residency interviews involve enough food that I haven't needed or wanted (!) to cook when I'm at home. Please excuse the temporary blog suspension while I digest, listen to "Bubble Pop!" and "Call Your Girlfriend" on repeat, pack, do Step 2 question sets, and try to finish re-reading A Suitable Boy before I leave for New Iberia tomorrow morning.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Evidence-based medicine

There are many common critiques of our current reliance on--and, practice-wise, deep trust in--evidence-based medicine. This article summarizes five of them and presents a quite reasonable assessment of how EBM should be used in clinical practice. Keep all that in mind... but oh, by the way, this article is just so cool. A relatively cheap, straightforward study examining a common test we've used on a common condition since time immemorial? I love it.

This has comforted me; better homemakers than I take really bad photos of food, which is my new excuse for this tentacled monstrosity.

Fresh octopus!

Post-braise, pre-strip of all the nasty outer parts I don't want to eat.

Finished dish.
This is a delicious, delicious octopus over orzo and vegetables. I paired it with caramels for dessert for no reason other than the fact that I'd made Andy a dense chocolate cake (ahem) with an amazing caramel glaze* the other day and had to get rid of the rest of the heavy cream.

Totally didn't measure anything other than the exorbitant amount of octopus I purchased. Instead, here's a list of ingredients, along with some instructions:

white wine
your choice of vinegar
juice of two small lemons, plus the rind of one half lemon
plum tomatoes
bay leaves
kosher salt

I combined everything but the sugar, tomatoes, and most of the salt in a huge pot and filled it with just enough water to cover the octopus, then simmered him** for about an hour, until nearly tender. I stripped a lot of the mucoid outer skin with my hands--how much you want to work on this depends on how much the texture bothers you--and broke down the octopus as I reduced the boiling liquid and added some extra vinegar and salt, as well as sugar. Then I let the octopus slices soak in the briny liquid for about another hour to chemically tenderize it. Just before it was done, I made orzo browned in butter with plum tomatoes, kale, and garlic, and served the octopus over that. Top with plenty of parsley and cracked black pepper, and maybe a squeeze of lemon; it needs the parsley freshness for sure.

*Seriously, I could have eschewed the cake and just eaten the glaze. It cooled to a sort of thick, praline-y texture that was just ridiculous.
**Every once in awhile I'm bothered by eating octopi, as they're supposed to be quite intelligent.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Do a barrel roll!

I've made croissants. I've made baked Alaska (with neither a broiler nor a blowtorch). I've made yogurt and marshmallows and butter. But I've always sworn to myself I'd never make phyllo. Until I wanted to make strudel and didn't like that most recipes I found called for thawed, frozen, unrolled phyllo. Premade dough is not my jam. Snob? Where?

Unlike baklava, strudel doesn't call for any hellish folding or cutting maneuvers... it just requires one to delicately, delicately roll paper-thin dough over spiky, lumpy apple slices. Sprezzatura? Where?

I almost forgot to take pictures and had to shakily maneuver my camera with my one non-butter-covered hand. They sort of kind of came out. Amateur? Where?

There were initially walnuts and raisins to put in this, but I snacked them into oblivion between the grocery shopping and pastry making. Glutton? Where?

Oh, and it turns out my camera has a nifty white balance (three guesses which two of the above I took after figuring that out). Goodbye, jaundiced pictures!

Apple strudel

200 g all-purpose flour
pinch kosher salt
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp canola oil
1/2 tsp white or cider vinegar
1/2 c lukewarm water

In a bowl, with a fork or dough hook, mix ingredients together until they come together in a shaggy ball. Knead with dough hook or on unfloured surface for about 3 minutes, or until you have a soft, smooth lump of dough. Coat in more canola oil and rest in a plastic wrap-covered bowl for at least an hour. The longer it sits, the more pliable it will be when you go to stretch it out.

1 1/2 pounds sliced, peeled apples of some tart variety that won't break down when baked (preferably fresh, local, interesting varieties)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 to 1/3 c sugar (depending on the sweetness of your apples)
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 c panko
6 tbsp melted butter, divided

Melt 2 tbsp butter in a saucepan until just starting to brown. Add the panko and toss over medium-high heat until they're toasty. Set aside.

Just before assembling, toss the apples, spices, sugar, and 2 tbsp of melted butter.

This is the tricky part. On a clean, dry, lightly floured surface, roll out the dough in a vaguely rectangular fashion, as thin as you can get it by rolling. Pay close attention to the edges of the dough so as not to end up with a thick rim. When it will roll no more, gently and evenly begin stretching the dough over your palms and forearms until it's as near translucent as you can get it without tearing it. A few holes are fine, of course.

When you have a rectangular-ish sheet of extremely thin dough, lay out the apples along a long edge, leaving a few inches of overhang. Evenly spread the toasted panko on top. Fold over the overhang, and carefully, as evenly as you can, begin to roll the whole thing into a long cylinder. Gently slide the cylinder onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, curling it into a horseshoe or circle or whatever you need to fit it. Brush with the remaining melted butter and sprinkle with a little cinnamon sugar. Bake at 400 F for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown and flaky. Allow to cool 5-10 minutes, then slice and enjoy.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Seasonal appetite disorder

I just finished The Violent Land, by Jorge Amado, on the way home from a recent residency interview. It was Halloween and cold and I had stuff to carry, so I treated myself to a cab ride home from Penn Station, and the cabbie serendipitously turned out to be from Brazil. It also turns out he's an exceptionally well-read person who recommended some lesser-known Amado works, and the author Clarice Lispector. We also discussed Chagas disease. This, ladies and germs, is why I'm having a hard time envisioning a life outside NYC at the moment.

Winter is actually upon us*. I have pathetically little experience making tomato sauce, but what I do know is that winter tomatoes are generally gross. Canned tomatoes are anywhere from good to completely unpalatable. Unfortunately, having neglected to spend the warmer months actually learning to jar fresh tomato sauce made from quality summertime goods, I have to figure out how to bolster the best-quality canned ones I can get**. Solution: a little red wine.

This is penne alla vodka, with red wine in the tomato sauce as mentioned. Yes, it's basically booze sauce with extra booze. Yes, it was rich and delicious.

Time to wrap up the Great Apple Tasting of 2013:

Golden Russet: Kind of grassy, with a thick, slightly bitter skin. Very rustic-tasting!

Snow: Just say no. The sign at the apple stand called this variety "crisp with beautiful pure white flesh." The aesthetically pleasing innards could not overcome the mealy, watery texture.

York: This one tasted sort of like a cider apple, not too sweet, and again very rustic. Just my style, but I can see how it wouldn't be for everyone.

*Stupid short days. All I want to do is stare morosely at the pitch-black sky at 5 p.m. and binge-eat everything in the house.
**Which, as it turns out, come from Trader Joe's.