Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Turkey Timing Redux

Is a puzzlement:
Fannie Farmer offers a handy table for roasting a turkey that shows an 18 pound bird taking about 7 hours at 3250 or around 23.34 minutes to the pound more or less depending.
Joy of Cooking says at 3250 a room temperature bird will take about 15 minutes per pound depending on how old, how big, how cold and how fat it is. Bigger takes longer per bird but shorter per pound.
Got that?
So, at 2500 a room temperature, youngish, biggish, unsvelte birdie might take less than an hour a pound. Else it might take more.
If you have a thermometer tuck it between the thigh and the body. Don't hit a bone! and wait until it reads 1900 . If yours is a high tech bird with one of those flap doodle gizmos, just watch it.
If none of the above you need to depend on your nose, primarily. When it starts smelling really good, take a look. Does the leg wiggle freely in its joint? its done.
Roasting breast downs increases moistness of the meat. But you have to turn the bird over before the end of cooking to brown the top.
Assurance is a mugs game. Pay attention and enjoy the day.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Seattle Brown Out Turkey

A week from tonight here's what you do for a pretty good turkey.

Once upon a forty or so years ago there was less power grid here in the Great Northwest than there were various and sundry folk wanting to plug in. Picture the poor sap running the grid on Thanksgiving: 7:00 am all those hard working Moms and other chefs-with-the-duty jump out of bed and rush into the kitchen in their flimsies to shove a humongous turkey into the oven at 3500 The grid feels like Cassius Clay KOed it instead of rhyming it to death.

The lights of the city grow dim. phut. They go out. The turkey is maybe 820 and goin' nowhere. Dinner is about 11:30. Almost Friday.

Del's solution, which I urge you to adopt in these precarious times was more or less what I do now.
Preheat the oven to about 3500

Wrasstle that bird out of its bionic packaging and sluice its frame in water. Reach your hand inside and yard out the sweetmeats packed by the abbattoir. Set them aside. (Where ever you like)((Where ever the cats like))

Do not pack this cavity with anything you intend to eat or allow your family to eat.
Shove sone herbs in it. Some onion or scallions. Some fresh sage and rosemary and thyme. Hell throw some gnger root and lemon in there if you think you like it that way. Any aromatic is jes' fine. Rub the skin with butter and salt and pepper or as you like it.

Put it in the life boat and cover it in aluminum foil. Place it reverently in the oven about bedtime the night before you eat it. Immediatey reduce the temp to 2500. Give it about an hour a pound. Check on it when you wake. That will be early because the aroma of roasting bird will have you pacing the floor by about 6:00 am. With luck you won't have to worry about carving the bird -- it will fall apart at a sharp look.

Now you have the rest of the morning to make the rest of the foo-fer-rar, and to prorperly baste the cook in a good Bordeau, and to simmer the juices into gravy.
The stuffing, made next morning, will be jes' fine with some of the pan juice or a can of chicken stock. Hell a cup or two of tawny port is even better.

Stretching out the process de-frazzles the cook.That allows time for the burgundy to turn the cook into a human.

Just be nice enough to set the table if asked.

Happy Turkey Day!


Sunday, November 13, 2005

Del Bao

Del discovered Hom Bao in Seattle's International District when he attended U. W. in the late forties. He found them no harder to eat than a bear finds honey difficult to swallow. He was almost as avid.

Once he visited San Francisco's China town. In a side street he discovered a shop of modest size. It was fitted out like a bakery with glass fronted display cases down the middle of the long room. Each case had many shelves. On each shelf were several full sheet trays. Each tray was covered in what Del saw as "Hom Bao!" When the proprietress emerged from the work room behind, Del said: "I want some Hom Bao."

"No Hom Bao." She replied.

Del looked at her. Then he looked at the serried ranks of trays filled with beautiful white pillows of steamed or baked bread. Then he looked back at her as if she had three heads and commanded: "Give me Hom Bao!"

"No Hom Bao." She insisted.

Fortunately for San Francisco's finest, a fracas was prevented by the arrival of a well dressed Chinese woman.

Del turned to her to ask: "Do you speak English?"

"Yes," she replied.

"Do you speak Chinese?" He querried.

This gave the woman pause. "Yes," she said.

"Then would you please explain to her that I want to buy some of her Hom Bao?"

The woman made a brief querry in Chinese.

The proprietoress made a voluable reply in a full panoply of gestures.

The woman made many vocables that appeared to indicate comprehension. Then she turned to Del and explained: "She asks me to tell you that she has many kinds of buns. There are beef buns, barbequed pork buns, vegetarian buns, chicken buns, sweet bean paste buns, curry buns and many others. But at the moment she is out of plain pork, or Hom, buns. So there are many kinds of Bao before you, but no Hom Bao."

Del thanked the woman for her translation, and apologized to the proprieteress for his gruffness and ordered a half dozen of each of her Bao.

His culinary world, already vast, became yet larger, while his Chinese vocabulary shrank, but only slightly.


Saturday, November 12, 2005

Shinjuku '67

Near midnight in the city. The last train 'home' is near. Wisps of mist waft along the dark and almost silent streets, the daytime shoppers long gone. Think of the vibrance of Greenwich Village in the fifties mixed with the devastating silence of Broadway and 57th at 3 am. From the side streets where the coffee houses lull their clientele with kohi (real coffee, not caffine and water) and alcohol and music, three figures emerge onto the sidewalk of the otherwise pedestrianless arterial just a few blocks from Shinjuku station. Ahead tall buildings soar with one surmounted by a neon sign some 12 stories in the sky: Odakyu, the departo store. Two of the figures are Japanese. One of average Japanese height, one tall in the astonishing post war way. The third figure is an enormous gaijin. Or Baka Beikoku-jin (foolish land of rice person) as I prefer to liken myself. Shin and Kenji need to return home while I must return to base before the trains stop.

We have spent the day exploring the city -- part of the city. They are not exactly teaching me Japanese. I am not exactly teaching them conversational English. Mostly they are better at learning English from me than I am at learning Japanese from them, or anyone else. Under my arm is an artist's sketch book -- the department stores offer wonderful bargains in art supplies. The sketch book is so many things: a handy assist to show spelling either of English or Kanji, or Kana, or Romanji; the essential note of directions (maps) to our next meeting; or a way to elaborate an idea beyond our linguistics; a place to doodle and joke; a prop to maintain my artistic pretentions. We have shopped or been to a zoo or a park or a movie. (Funny. The comedy put me to sleep since I couldn't follow it, while I can recite the plot of the Samauri flick -- Jo-i-uchi -- to this day. Apparantly that was a dud as there is no DVD) We ate dinner, quite likely at the Kirin beer hall, and we passed the evening in various of the coffee houses of Shinjuku. Some played classical. Some played jazz, hot or cold. Some folk -- did I say this was the late Sixties? And some played nothing at all to encourage talk which occurred no matter what.

Certainly we talked. We talked as young people must talk if they are not stiffled. From the heights of despair to the depths of romance. With philosophy, religion and politics to the fore, and bitter reality ever present. Remember, there was a war on as a distant backdrop coloring me and my friends. All of us were born during a war between our countries. Heady stuff. Mostly it was silliness. Mostly we learned how to laugh with each other in our different cultures. A most valuable gift.

Earlier we had passed a greengrocers where in spring strawberries were elegantly arrayed in, more than Prussian -- Japanese! -- precission. Now in Fall they scented the crisp air with mikans from Satsuma. Oh, exquisite citrus! Sharp. Sweet. Exactly as citrus always are in the Jade Emperor's Palace.

Now we approached a street vendor whose cart was plumed in welcoming steam. He offered us steamed buns -- bao, in Chinese. Delicious meat filled pillows of bread: steamy perfection against the Siberian winds that whispered, insinuatingly, around us.

Now: (Oh exuberance of excellances!!) combine them! Crisp autumnal air! Sweet! Sharp! Citrus! Steamed bread enfolding barbecued pork filling!

This, to me, is autumn.

For the thirty-sixth time.


Thursday, November 03, 2005

Samhain Ends

No sun--no moon!
No morn--no noon!
No dawn--no dusk--no proper time of day--
No sky--no earthly view--
No distance looking blue--
No road--no street--no "t'other side this way"--
No end to any Row--
No indications where the Crescents go--
No top to any steeple--
No recognitions of familiar people--
No courtesies for showing 'em--
No knowing 'em!
No traveling at all--no locomotion--
No inkling of the way--no notion--
"No go" by land or ocean--
No mail--no post--
No news from any foreign coast--
No Park, no Ring, no afternoon gentility--
No company--no nobility--
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member--
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds--
-- Thomas Hood

Thanks, Roy.