Matzah Balls

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All right, so it’s that time of the month when I come out of hiding to contribute to the kosher food blogging world, in this month’s version of the Kosher Connection- Link up. If you’re new to the program, every month there’s a theme, and a bunch of reputable food bloggers, and myself, get together to give their version of that theme. This month’s theme is “Get well Gil.” For the uninitiated, Gil Marks is one of the foremost experts on kosher food, and it’s long history. In fact he even wrote a freaking encyclopedia on it! I happen to love the book, and it only weighs in at a whopping 650ish pages, so you know, it’s typical light reading fare. But in all honesty, the book is incredible, and it literally covers everything imaginable related to kosher food, from Adafina to Zwetschgenkuchen (“a cross between a cake and tart made with Italian prune plums”), I highly recommend taking a gander.

Anyway, I was trying to think what would be an appropriate recipe, and it dawned on me – Matzah Balls! Think about it – it’s the ultimate healing food, plus, it’s one of those foods that epitomizes Jewish cooking (sorry S’fardim, I guess you don’t count!…I joke, next time I’ll make Jachnun, or something scary sounding like that). Onward!

Quoting Gil in the Encyclopedia:

“..By the 12th century, the concept of dumplings, originally made from bread, had spread from Italy to Bohemia, where it was called knodel (knot). From there, the name traveled with variations in pronunciation, to southern Germany, Austria, and France. The term also traveled eastward to the Slavic regions. The most widespread Ashkenazic name for dumpling became knaidel/kneydl, which is better know by the plural knaidlach/kneydlakh

As the medieval period waned, flour began to replace bread as the base…During the 8 days of Passover…Germans discovered that they could substitute matza for the bread or flour, creating the most widely known type..matzah knaidel

It was only in the early 20th century, after Manischewitz introduced packaged matza meal, that this dumpling achieved mass popularization and it’s current status as an iconic Jewish food.

Matza balls consist of only a few ingredients – matza meal, eggs, a little far, a liquid, salt, and pepper. Using matza meal in place of flour, and adding eggs resulsts in a lighter dumpling. Adding fat…produces a more flavorful dumplings…

Now, ever since our post on chicken stock, I’m sure that like me, you also have some chicken shmaltz lying around in the fridge (or maybe some duck fat??), and seriously, what better way than to incorporate it into some matzah meal, with some of that stock…it’s like the circle of life, man. First you make chicken, then with the leftover bones and scraps, you make stock. With that stock you get the base of your chicken soup, and you also have shmaltz to make knaydlach….it’s so deep man.

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I actually used Michael Ruhlman’s recipe for this (I like that everything is by weight…because, you know… a scale…I’m like a broken record over here…), and I took some matzah, and added it to a food processor to pulverize.

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To that I added, the remaining dry ingredients: baking powder, some fresh rosemary (which I had lying around, but you can use whatever you see fit), salt, and black pepper.

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I melted some fresh chicken fat (you can use vegetable oil if you’re a lightweight), added it to 4 eggs and 1/4 cup of fresh chicken stock, and mixed it all together.

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Then I mixed together, the dry and wet ingredients, and after thoroughly combined, I let it sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, to fully hydrate.

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Before you’re ready to go, bring a pot of salted water to a simmer.

Then I rolled it up into golf-ish sized balls (remember, they’re going to grow, so smaller than you expect….I make this mistake, every time mind you).

Dump the kneydels into the salted water, and cook until they’re nice and fluffy,  about 20-30 minutes.

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And there you have it…there might be some of you out there (ahem – Phoenix Fresser..) why not just make this out of a box mix?? Well I’m going to preempt that by saying, Hashem gets angry when you use a box mix (especially duncan hines…but that’s another post).

Anyway, we here at the Kosher Gastronome Headquarters would like to wish a full and speedy recovery to Gil (Yitzchak Simcha ben Baila).

As always with the Kosher Link Ups, click on the funny frog guy below to see what the other peoples are doing.

Matzah Balls:

Ingredients:

  • 4 squares of matzo (ie –  1 cup/140 grams matzo meal), well pulverized in a food processor
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup/60 grams schmaltz, melted (or vegetable oil)
  • 1/4 cup/60 milliliters chicken stock or water
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon chopped rosemary (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir until they are all thoroughly mixed. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  2. With damp hands, form the matzo mixture into 8 golf ball-sized orbs (they will double in size).
  3. Bring a pot of salted water to a simmer
  4. Drop in balls, and cook for 20-30 minutes.

 

Boneless Chicken rollups with Porter reduction

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So apparently there are some people who mistakenly think that white meat is better than dark meat. Craziness right? Now don’t get me wrong, white meat that’s properly cooked, and fresh is awesome, and bad chicken is bad chicken no matter what color…however that being said, all things being equal, dark meat is way better. Now there are some that claim dark meat is annoying because it comes with bones, and these people, being the lazy people they are, don’t want to have to go through the trials and tribulations of having to work when they eat, so to these weird people, any sort of impediment in their course to stuffing said food down their gullets in one fluid motion is considered bad, so ergo, bone-in chicken is bad. I know what you’re thinking, who is crazy enough to think this, right?? Well I’m not going to name names (ahem – Dr Shmalexman) but suffice it to say, people like this do exist. Where am I going with this diatribe? Well what if we could take dark meat and remove the bone so even those lazy people out there can enjoy good chicken. I know what you’re thinking, why not just buy boneless dark meat, right? Well the only answer I have is, have you seen how much more they charge you for removing the bone? Just do it yourself, and it’s really not that hard. Onward!

So butchery is a great way to take out some aggression, and I highly recommend cutting down a whole chicken at least once, just to get a feel for it (plus, the chicken always comes out neater, and another benefit is you can make chicken galantine, which you should definitely do), anyway, if you decide not to butcher a whole chicken, go grab some chicken legs, and lets start cutting. First you’re going to want to cut the drumstick from the thigh, and the easiest way to do that is to take the bottom, and squeeze the leg and thigh together and start cutting down, and you should be able to wriggle your knife in between the two pieces, and cut right through.

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Once you have the leg, you can slice down directly over the bone to open it up, and then slide your knife under the bone but on top of the meat, to completely separate the meat from the bone. Then kind of do the same thing with the thigh, but I’m sorry, because I don’t have any good pictures, but basically cut along the bone, and then slide the knife underneath to cut meat away, and where the two bones meet you’ll need to cut away, whatever,you’ll figure it out, right? Gravy sauce.

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Allright, so now that you have your cut up chicken bottoms (or bought deboned thighs, because I know you guys, and I know that you’re thinking, hey why go through all this work, when I can just buy it…well you’re what’s wrong with our society!)…ok sorry for that.. moving right along…so I took the chicken, and rolled it up so it would be thicker, and more uniform, and decided you know what would be a great application for these pieces of chicken? Braising.

Braising is, in my opinion, a very underutilized technique. The idea behind it is like this – the gentlest and easiest way to cook something is by using water as a heat transfer medium (ie – it’s more predictable to cook something in water, than in air [the oven] because of how well water can transfer heat), but there’s one caveat, high heat develops flavor. So braising combines the best of both worlds, you get high heat cooking, and liquid cooking. The way it works is thusly – first you brown whatever protein you’re cooking, remove the meat, and add whatever veggies. Then you add enough liquid so that it will end up submerging half of the meat, cover the whole thing with a tight fitting lid, and continue cooking.

For our application, I rolled up the boneless chicken, and tied it with some twine. Set up a dutch oven over high heat, and browned the chicken on all sides.

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While that was cooking, I mixed some honey, dijon mustard, hot sauce, and porter beer. I removed the chicken, added the liquid to the pot, and scraped the bottom while it was cooking (as the chicken browns, it develops what’s called fond on the bottom of the pan, which is a big source of flavor, so scraping it off the bottom helps). I added the chicken back, covered the pot, and placed in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes…I think.

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When it was all done, the porter had reduced by a lot, and made an excellent thick sauce, and the chicken was actually pretty awesome, and I think you should definitely give this a try.

So yeah, that’s all for now, if you have any questions, let’s talk.

I’m not going to lie, I miss you random people I mostly don’t know, so I’m going to leave you with an empty promise that I’m going to try and post more often. I really want to but you know, life and all that gets in the way, so yeah, first world problems…whatever…enjoy the snow.

Chicken Galantine…Plus, a happy 3rd bloggaversary to me

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I’ve been looking for a good recipe to make and write about to get back into the whole blogging thing…It’s been rough, but I think I found it. Basically, chicken galantine is essentially keeping a chicken whole, while removing all of the bones, then stuffing it, wrapping it all up, and cooking the sucker.

Now, I know what you’re thinking…chickens have bones?? The long answer is – yes.

I personally love the art and technique of butchering. I’ve always been intrigued by it, because it is an art and it’s pretty much not appreciated. Lately whenever I can, I like to buy whole chickens, and chop it up into it’s different parts, and I don’t know why, but there’s this more accomplished feeling, when you realize that one whole chicken, can produce so many components to the meal. Like in our dish for example – I used the remaining carcass to make a stock, and the scrap chicken to make the filling. Then I used the stock to make the gravy that went with the dish. It’s kinda like the circle of life, man…it’s super deep.

Whatever, philosophy class aside, I’m not gonna say this is an easy technique to do, but trust me when I say, that if I can do it, so can you. It does help to have a little bit of knowledge of what parts are what though. So without further ado…chicken galantine.

Ok, this recipe comes from the great Jacques Pepin, and he has a great Youtube video, which I recommend watching if you’re gonna venture into this. You’ll also have to excuse me for not having great step by step pictures.

One thing to know before going into this, is you know how chickens have “white and dark” meat? Well, in general, whenever an animal uses a particular muscle for longer periods of time, as opposed to quick bursts, the muscle will be darker. So for example – a chicken pretty much uses the muscles of its legs all day, when it sits, stands, walks, etc..so it needs those muscles constantly. However, a chicken doesn’t really use its wings all too often. Every once in a while, it will use them for a moment. The machinery needed to run these muscles are different, and that’s why they taste different.

(Quick science detour – You can skip this part if you want [but the rest you can’t!] – Basically, the muscles that are used for longer periods of time, need fat and oxygen in order to work, which it gets from the bloodstream in the form of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin then gives the oxygen to myoglobin, which stores it until the cytochromes are ready to oxidize it. The myoglobin is what gives these muscle fibers its dark red color [what’s interesting is, there are different configurations to myoglobin and depending on that configuration is what color the meat will be…ranging from purple, to red, and brown…but I digress]…anyway, with white meat, since the body needs the energy pronto, it doesn’t rely on the blood stream to deliver its nutrients, rather, the muscle has energy stored within it, in the form of glycogen, and converts that into energy without having to wait for blood to bring stuff. And while we’re on the topic, if you thought about it, you would understand why a duck is different than a chicken…it actually uses it’s breast muscle for long periods of time, and that’s why there’s no white meat on a duck, and why it’s freaking delicious…this is also why a tuna, and to a lesser extent salmon is different than bass or flounder…see where I’m going with this?)

Ok back to our chicken, one of the challenges in cooking this (or chicken in general for that matter) is cooking the white and dark meat to the right point, and since they both are done at different temperatures (white meat – needs to be cooked no higher than 140, and dark meat has to exceed 155ish in order for it to be melt in your mouth [that has to do with the connective tissue breaking down into collagen…more on that another time]), so we’re going to have to keep that in mind once we’re done with the whole carcass breakdown thingy…wait…it’s been like 6 paragraphs, and we haven’t even started cutting the bird??? Yeesh, this is gonna be a long post…I know, but it’s been a while…I have a lot to say.

Ok, Ok…let’s get cutting. First thing to do is remove the wish bone by making slits along the backside, and digging your fingers in, and pulling it out.

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Then, lay the bird on the side, and cut through the skin along the spine. Then we’re going to separate the tips and the flat off of the wings to leave just the mini drum stick. (I know this is hard to describe without good pictures, but it was hard to take pics, so just do yourself a favor and watch the video)

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All right, now the next part happens pretty fast, but the idea is this – All we’re going to be cutting from here on in is the knee and shoulder joints…the rest will be separated just by pulling everything apart (again, watch the video). Once you have both shoulder joints separated, you can basically pull the whole carcass down, and then you’ll be at the knee joint and will need to cut that also.

Once that’s done, this is what you’ll have -

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The only bones left are two in each leg, and one in each shoulder.

To remove the leg bones, take the back of your knife, and gently scrape away at any meat clinging to the bone, and when you reach the actual joint, you’ll have to cut in order to separate (need I say watch the video again?)

Then to remove the bone, I pretty much whacked the ankle, to break the bone, and removed the bone through the thigh. For the bone in the shoulder, you can actually just push it out.

Ok, so now we’re ready to fill the pollo. I kinda went on a riff on our chicken crepes (which I’m sure still is emblazoned in your memory because it was so awesome), which is a big hit in this family.

I sauteed onions and mushrooms, and after they were good and soft, I added some flour, and stirred to combine. Then I added some of the stock and let that come to a simmer, and then added our reserved chopped up chicken.

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Transfer to chicken, and fill the bird, making sure to stuff the filling into the legs and shoulders.

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Then, roll it all up

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and tie it like a large roast.

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I then salted it, and placed it in the fridge over night. Leaving it in the fridge over night helps for two reasons. One I was able to go to sleep, because I was super tired. But mainly, it dries out the skin, which helps to brown the chicken better.

When you’re ready to cook, since we’re going to be roasting the chicken (ie – high heat, and uncovered), considering what we discussed earlier, we needed a way to figure out how not to overcook the wihte meat, while the dark meat continues to cook. One method I’ve used before is to pplace aluminum foil over the white meat for the first portion of cooking.

Now since there’s only so much more I can discuss, essentially there are three ways to transmit heat/energy and cook something, conduction, convection, and radiation. Without getting too much into it, placing aluminum foil on the chicken prevents radiation from transmitting energy, and thus eliminates part of what will cook the meat. Confusing? Great!

So I put the bird in at 400 for about 45-50 minutes, covering the white meat with aluminum for about 20 minutes of that.

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And that’s it. Now you just have to cut it up.

I served it with a mushroom sauce (gravy made with the stock, along with sauteed mushrooms recipe here)

Well, I know the 9 days are coming, and my timing might not be the best, but you know what? I don’t care! Plus, as I’m sure you saw in the title, it’s my 3rd anniversary for this here li’l website. So go me…I’m not exactly sure what the accomplishment is, but hey, lets just celebrate.

I also hope to be able to blog more now that I’m officially unemployed (ie I finally am done with my residency, and I’m looking for a job), so here’s another empty promise that I write some more…but you know I’ll probably disappoint.

Chicken Galantine

Watch Video here

Based on this recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole chicken, deboned, but left whole
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 Small case of Mushrooms, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • leftover chicken from the last time you made stock
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • Stock
  • 1 batch of mushroom sauce

Directions:

  1. Debone chicken, watch Chef Pepin do it in video above
  2. Salt and pepper the insides of the chicken
  3. Sautee mushroom and onion, until soft, about 5-7 minutes
  4. Add flour and cook while stirring for another 2-3 minutes, until toasty
  5. Add garlic, and cook for another 30 seconds
  6. Add broth, and bring to a boil, and cook for another 7 minutes or so, until thickened.
  7. Add reserved chicken scraps, and stir to combine
  8. Take mushroom chicken mixture, and stuff chicken, ensuring to placed stuffing into legs and shoulders.
  9. Roll up chicken, and tie into a roast.
  10. Set chicken on a rack, salt and pepper the bird, and place in fridge over night (optional)
  11. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 400
  12. Place piece of aluminum foil over white meat, and cook chicken for 15-20 minutes, remove foil, up the heat to 450, and cook for another 15-20 minutes, or until ready (135 for white meat if using thermometer)
  13. Allow meat to rest before carving at least 30 minutes.
  14. Slice and serve with mushroom sauce

Garlic Scallion Chicken Stir Fry – December Kosher Link Up

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This month’s Kosher Connection Linkup’s theme is Chinese Food, and pretty much any dish you get in a chinese restaurant is a stir fry. A stir fry, is my go to for a really quick weeknight supper. It comes together really quick, and can literally be on the table in like 10 minutes, provided you do some preparation work, and have everything ready to go (ie – mise en place). Now don’t get me wrong, I am the most unprepared cook in the history of preparedness, however, when it comes to throwing down a stir fry, you need to have it all ready, because it comes together quick.

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Here’s what makes a stir fry a stir fry. First thing first, like we said, everything comes together really quickly, which is why it’s crucial you have a good pan. Whether you use a wok (which might not be the best option, depending on what type of wok you have, and whether it’s suitable for your stove), or you have a heavy bottomed cast iron skillet (which is what I use), or a tri-ply type of skillet (a “metal” type of pan, that has a layer of copper sandwiched between 2 layers of aluminum, to ensure even cooking; these pans are usually very expensive [eg – all-clad]), you need to heat the bejessus out of it, to make sure it’s super duper hot. This will ensure everything cooks quickly. Second, you want uniform sized pieces, so whatever you decide to put into the stir fry, should all be about the same size.

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Now onto the food. There’s really three components. The protein, the vegetables, and the sauce. As for the protein, whether it’s chicken, beef, tofu, or whatever, the principles are the same. You want to cook them, really quickly, and with high heat, so you can develop maximum browning, but without overcooking. So you have to wait for the pan/oil to be really hot, and not overcrowd the pan (or you’ll end up steaming the meat, and not sautéing it). I usually cook the protein first, and when it’s ready I take it out of the pan, and let it sit on the side, and then add it back at the last second to mix together with everything else. (This is when a spider (that mesh looking device below) is really helpful)

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For the vegetables, I like to keep it simple, and not overwhelm the dish with too many different vegetables. 1 or 2 different vegetables would be the maximum. Now in regards to cooking the vegetable, it has be done with order also. First rule – garlic and ginger always gets added at the last second, and is only sautéed for like 20 seconds. This prevents the garlic and ginger from burning, which they can do pretty easily. Other wise, the other vegetables, will cook much the same way the chicken is cooked, fast, over high heat (again, to maximize browning, while retaining their crispy-ness).

For the garlic, there are those who are against garlic presses, saying garlic presses mush the garlic too fine, and can cause the flavor of the final product to be too harsh, and instead they make a garlic paste on their cutting board. Now, I’m not one of those people, but sometimes I’m too lazy to clean the garlic press, so I make the paste instead. It’s not that hard once you get the hang of it. You take your knife and using the sides, you just keep on smushing it, until a paste forms. Some people will add salt, saying it will help (the salt abrades against the garlic), but I never do that.

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For the sauce, this is really where you can just make anything up. Usually, the sauce will have soy sauce, and a vinegar in it, and a spicy component, but that’s not a hard fast rule. And you add the sauce once the vegetables is done. Since your pan is super hot, the sauce will immediately start to sizzle. You let it cook for 20 seconds or so, and then another classical addition is corn starch, to thicken the sauce.

Starch thickens sauces by absorbing water, but they only do that at a certain temperature, so typically, you take 1-2 teaspoons of cornstarch and dissolve it in 1-2 teaspoons of water, and then add that to the sauce as the finishing touch. The reason you can’t just add corn starch straight to the sauce (without dissolving it first), is because the second the starch hits the hot sauce it starts absorbing water, and if you add it straight it would clump up.

So for our dish, we went with chicken (deboned thighs) as our protein, which we “marinated” in egg whites and corn starch (it’s not really a marinade, in that it doesn’t effect the chicken’s tenderness, but we did let it soak in it for a little while…the egg whites and corn starch coat the chicken, and form somewhat of a barrier, and are a kind of insurance to prevent over cooking), quick cooking scallions and garlic, and for the sauce, it was composed of – ketchup, white vinegar, white wine, sugar, and soy sauce, served over rice.

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Obviously the ingredients are listed below, but feel free to tinker around.

Don’t forget to check out the other blogs that participated, by clicking on the funny looking frog thingy below.



Garlic Scallion Chicken Stiry Fry

adapted from Joy of cooking (pg 594)

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1.5 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1-2 boneless, skinless thighs, cut into roughly 1/2” cubes
  • 3 scallions, cut into 1/4” pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons, plus 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 4 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 4 teaspoons dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons corn starch, dissolved in 2 teaspoons water
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Directions:

  1. Mix egg whites, cornstarch, salt, and chicken pieces, and let sit 20-30 minutes
  2. Cut scallions and garlic, and set aside. Mix together sauce, and set aside, and mix together cornstarch and water and also set aside (the cornstarch will settle, and will need one last stir right before adding)
  3. Heat your skillet/wok over high heat for at least 5-10 minutes, so that it’s really pre-heated. You can test this, by taking a drop of water, and it should sizzle the second it hits the pan.
  4. Add 3 tablespoons of your oil, and once it’s shimmering, add chicken, ensuring not to overcrowd your pan, you might have to do it in batches if your pan isn’t big enough.
  5. Once the chicken is ready, remove it from the pan, and set it aside.
  6. Allow the pan to heat up again, and when hot again (don’t do the “water test” since there’s oil in the pan, and it will just spurt hot oil all over the place…not fun) add the garlic and scallions, and allow to cook for literally 20 seconds (once you start to smell it, it’s done)
  7. Working quickly, add the sauce, it should start to sizzle, and allow to cook for 15-20 seconds, and then slowly add the cornstarch mixture (don’t forget to stir the cornstarch before adding to make sure it’s dissolved), and it should start to thicken right away.
  8. Add your chicken back (along with any liquid that is with it) and mix around to incorporate everything, and you’re done